Last week, I postedon a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report
on the metro regions with the highest-paying jobs in nine major
occupations. But this report only listed the top two regions in each
category. So I decided to take a closer look at the underlying BLS data
to compile a more comprehensive mapping of regional pay. With the help
of my colleague, Charlotta Mellander, we looked at the pay levels for
three types of jobs - high-skill, high-pay, creative class jobs;
traditional, blue-collar, working class jobs; and lower-skill, lower-pay
The first map (above) shows the distribution of pay levels across all
U.S. metro regions. The highest-paying metro pays more than double the
lowest-paying one ($66,780 vs. $30,670). In fact, there are roughly two
dozen metros which have half the pay level of the highest-paying region.
That highest-paying region is San Jose ($66,780), followed by nearby
San Francisco ($61,940). Greater Washington, D.C. is third ($60,090),
followed by Greater Boston ($58,330), the Boston suburb of Framingham
($57,660), Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut ($57,340), Bethesda,
Maryland, a suburb of D.C. ($56,900), Greater New York ($56,250),
Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey ($55,590), and Oakland, California ($54,590).
Lowell, Massachusetts ($54,110), Boulder ($53,640), Seattle ($53,240),
Newark-Union, New Jersey ($52,760), Hartford, Connecticut ($51,520),
Durham, North Carolina ($50,480), Edison, New Jersey ($50,350),
Nassau-Suffolk, New York ($50,190), and Anchorage, Alaska ($49,730) are
all among the top-20 highest-paying U.S. metros.
The second map (above) shows the geography of pay for creative class
jobs - that is, jobs in science, technology, and engineering; business,
management, and law; health care and education; and arts, culture,
design, media, and entertainment. The highest-paying region in the
United States is San Jose (Silicon Valley), where the average creative
class wage is $101,575. Greater San Francisco is next with an average
wage of $95,472, followed by Greater New York ($90,101), Greater
Washington, D.C. ($89,712), Bridgeport-Stamford ($87,747), Greater
Boston ($86,681), Bethesda, Maryland ($86,485), Framingham,
Massachusetts ($85,344), Napa, California ($84,959), and Oakland,
California ($84,069). Four of the top 10 metros are in and around the
Bay Area; two of the top 10 are in Greater Washington, D.C., and another
two are in Greater Boston.
The third map (above) shows distribution of pay for service jobs.
These are lower-skill jobs in occupations like home health care aid,
personal care aid, food preparation, retail sales, and office and
clerical work. Even at the top end of the scale, they pay less than half
of knowledge, professional, and creative work.
Interestingly, many of the same regions make this list. The metro
with the highest-paying service jobs is Bridgeport-Stamford ($40,935),
San Francisco is third ($39,822), San Jose, fourth ($39,469), Greater
New York, fifth ($38,514), Greater Boston, sixth ($38,409), Framingham,
seventh ($37,289), and Oakland, ninth ($37,149). Hanford, California
($40,594), Trenton, New Jersey ($37,169), and Seattle ($36,393) round
out the top 10.
The fourth map shows the geography of pay for blue-collar work in
manufacturing, construction, and transportation and moving occupations.
Two Alaska metros top the list - Fairbanks ($52,247) and Anchorage
($50,785). But, here again, we find some of the same metros - San
Francisco in third place ($47,757), Oakland, California in fifth
($45,087), Seattle, sixth ($44,765), Greater New York, eighth ($44,583),
and Greater Boston, tenth ($44,031). Bremerton, Washington ($46,762),
Honolulu ($44,706), and Nassau-Suffolk, New York ($44,214) round out the
The geography of high-paying jobs is strikingly uniform. The
highest-paying regions are bi-coastal - dominated by metros in the Bay
Area and the Bos-Wash corridor. And the pattern holds not just for the
highest-paying metros but for all U.S. metros. Pay levels for the three
major occupational groups are closely correlated across the U.S.
regions. Creative class pay is closely correlated with both service
class pay (.86) and working class pay (.67); and service class and
working class pay are also closely correlated (.74). This likely
reflects regional differences in housing prices and other living costs
as well as other structural characteristics of these regions such as
human capital, demographic characteristics, and overall productivity.
That said, it's important for policymakers as well as for analysts to
take into account the systematic geographic differences in pay across
U.S. regions. But the striking fact is that a small number of U.S.
regions pay considerably more than others for virtually every type of