Shutterstock

Workers do well on the east and west coasts.

The economic crisis has hit all workers hard. But the creative class — which includes professionals in the fields of science and technology, design and architecture, arts, entertainment and media, and healthcare, law, management and education — has fared better than most.

Unemployment for this group never grew much higher than 5 percent, while the national rate surged to more than double that and triple for blue collar workers. 

But the pay levels of members of the creative class varies substantially by geography. Creative class members in the highest paying metros earn more than six figures, while those in the lowest paying metros make roughly $40,000.

Where do creative class workers get paid the most?

The map above shows the average salary and wages for all the metros across the United States. It is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled by my colleague Kevin Stolarick of the Martin Prosperity Institute. The slideshow below lists the top 20. 

Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley's San Jose, with its high concentration of entrepreneurs and ongoing "talent wars," offers the highest wages and salaries. The Bay Area also pays well: second place San Francisco offers an average wage of $91,361. Nearby Napa is fifth, at $87,765. Overall, California has eight of the top 20 metros, with Los Angeles ninth ($80,859), San Diego tenth ($80,036), Oxnard-Thousand Oaks (twelfth with an average salary of $78,481) Santa Barbara (fourteenth with $78,173 average wage), and Salinas 17th with average wages of $77,086.

The East Coast, especially the Boston-Washington corridor, is also well-represented. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut, is third ($90,713) and the greater Washington, D.C., metro is fourth ($90,442). The greater New York area is seventh ($87,625). Boston is eighth ($80,859), Hartford is 15th ($77,187), New Haven is 18th ($76,826), and Philadelphia is 19th ($76,694). Trenton-Ewing is ninth at $80,816 for an average wage.

Seattle, Boulder, Santa Barbara, Durham, (in the North Carolina Research Triangle), and Anchorage compete the top 20. 

In a fascinating 2011 study, the economist Todd Gabe identified the key factors behind this creative class wage premium. He found it is less the result of working around people or firms in the same industry and more about interacting with other creative workers who reside in the same region. Creative class wages are also higher in larger cities and metros that offer more diversity across different kinds of creative work.

Photo credit: Dmitriy Shironosov /Shutterstock

This post is an abridged and revised excerpt of material from The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited, out this month from Basic Books.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    A New Plan to Correct a Historic Mistake in Pittsburgh

    A Bjarke Ingels Group-led plan from 2015 has given way to a more “practical” design for the Lower Hill District. Concerns over true affordable housing remain.

  2. A photo of shoppers on University Avenue in East Palo Alto, California, which is flanked by two technology campuses.
    Equity

    An Island of Silicon Valley Affordability Says Yes to More Housing

    East Palo Alto is surrounded by tech riches, but that hasn’t necessarily helped longtime residents, who welcome a state law mandating zoning reform

  3. Electricians install solar panels on a roof for Arizona Public Service company in Goodyear, Arizona.
    Environment

    A Bottom-Line Case for the Green New Deal: The Jobs Pay More

    A Brookings report finds that jobs in the clean energy, efficiency, and environmental sectors offer higher salaries than the U.S. average.

  4. A photo of a closed street in St. Louis
    Equity

    What’s Behind the Blocked Streets of St. Louis?

    Thanks to an '80s mania for traffic calming, the St. Louis grid is broken by hundreds of car barriers and cul-de-sacs. Critics say it’s time to get rid of them.

  5. A crowded room of residents attend a local public forum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
    Life

    Are Local Politics As Polarized As National? Depends on the Issue.

    Republican or Democrat, even if we battle over national concerns, research finds that in local politics, it seems we can all just get along—most of the time.