Median income reaching new heights in Bay Area; $200K is middle class in San Jose

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SAN JOSE (KRON) — As defined by median household income, the middle class in some Bay Area cities is simply off the charts.

A new study by the personal finance website Go Bank Rates, finds that among 200 cities nationwide, five of the top ten cities with highest middle income growth are in the Bay Area.

San Francisco tops the list with Oakland and Fremont close behind.

Not as surprising, the high cost of living and housing is partly to blame, says San Jose State Economics Chair Dr. Colleen Haight.

“You need 200K to be in the middle if you want to live in the Bay Area where things are very expensive,” she said. “Because if you’re look at how your income translates to quality of life, things are simply more expensive in the Bay Area than they are at other locations.”

The technology sector is leading the way.

The study finds that Sunnyvale had the second highest income, more than $236,000 while Oakland had the lowest.

But the middle class is not defined by income only says Dr. Haight.

“It is relative, so middle class, I wouldn’t designate it as an income level necessarily, because the same income that makes you middle class in one spot might not make you middle class in another. It might make you very wealthy or it might make you quite poor.” said Dr. Haight. 

Dr. Haight argues that middle class is less about economics than it is about lifestyle.

But the numbers are a clear indication of the changing nature of what it means to be middle class here in the Bay Area.

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