The US Office of Management and Budget defines a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), or Metropolitan Area, as being among those areas with at least one urban center with a population of no less than 50,000 people. In addition, the adjoining regions therein must be highly integrated socially and economically. Simplified, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is either the total value of goods and services produced in a region or the total incomes produced by all the residents and organizations in a particular year in the region. To determine the earning power and the living standards of residents of a region, the GDP is shared among the people living in that particular metropolitan area or country, called per capita real GDP, which is total GDP of a region divided by its relevant populace.
It is obvious that the type of industry a metropolitan area is known for is a major determining factor of the level of per capita income. Accordingly, oil and mining are one such industry that has played a huge role in the wealth shift among the MSAs. As a matter of point, four of the top ten metropolitan areas are situated in the states of Texas, California, and Wyoming, which are also ranked in the top ten oil-producing states. Furthermore, innovation and technology are another major contributing factor to high per capita GDP. To this end, five of the top ten MSAs are also ranked in the top ten most innovative and high tech MSAs. Interesting to note is that construction and the government sectors contributed negatively to MSAs’ GDPs. Another worthy observation is that the metropolitan areas listed performed much better than the nation in the per capita real GDP analysis. For a better understanding of these concepts, we have provided below a detailed report of the ten wealthiest metropolitan statistical areas in the US.
10. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV - GDP Per Capita: $72,191 USD
Covering Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, and a small part of West Virginia, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria MSA is among the most populous metropolitan areas. Although placed at position ten with a per capita GDP of $72,191, it is the most educated listed region, likely contributing to its high level of affluence. In 2009, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria MSA was voted among the US’s “Most High-Tech Centers”, second only to the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA, and ahead of Boston-Cambridge-Newton. Hailed as the highest employer in the high-tech sector, the MSA has enjoyed a 20% growth in tech employment since 2001, and a 20.8% growth rate in science technology, engineering and mathematics jobs.
9. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC - GDP Per Capita: $73,523 USD
Part of the Research Triangle and home to Research Triangle Park, North Carolina's Durham-Chapel Hill MSA is home to many savvy immigrants from all corners of the world and walks of life. The US Bureau of Economic Survey placed the metro at number nine, with a per capita real GDP of $73,523. With the research park housing more than 170 global companies with more than 40,000 high-tech employees and three world-renowned research universities, the Durham-Chapel Hill, NC metro area is a technology hub.
8. Trenton, NJ - GDP Per Capita: $73,719 USD
New Jersey's Trenton Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded a per capita real GDP of $73,719, placing it at position eight among the ten richest MSAs. The metro has experienced a steady growth rate since 2005, only experiencing a serious downturn in 2009. Compared to the other MSAs in the top ten, the rate of unemployment is relatively higher in Trenton, standing at 8.2%. However, the cost of living in the Trenton MSA is much lower, averaging only 86.5% of the national average. The single largest sector contributing to the Trenton metro’s economy is state, county, and municipal government. Other notable contributors to the economy include manufacturing, trade, and services.
7. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH - GDP Per Capita: $74,746 USD
Occupying the seventh position of the top ten richest MSAs with a per capita GDP of $74746, the Boston-Cambridge-Newton metro area in Massachusetts and New Hampshire is regarded as an education and health center for all of New England. Arguably, the metro is also the focal point of major tourist attractions in the region. The Boston-Cambridge-Newton area has experienced steady overall economic growth over the last twenty years. Indeed, the recorded average annual GDP growth for the metro has been 3.79%. Hailed as a Biotech stronghold, technologies, health, and education alike have contributed importantly to its growth.
6. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA - GDP Per Capita: $75,874 USD
Sixth in the ranking, with a per capita GDP of $75,874, Washington's Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue MSA has experienced steady economic growth over several years. From a per capita real GDP of $23,720 in 1990 to $49,665 in 2010 and finally $75,874 in 2014, the economy is expected to continue growing. The technological aspect of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue economy has played a great role in the steady economic growth the metro has experienced over the years. In fact, Seattle, a major player in the MSA’s social and economic areas, has experienced a 45% growth increase in tech industry employment, and close to 20% growth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations. Seattle has also been named in the list of “Top 10 Internet Cities in the World”. A major indicator of the MSA’s positive economic performance is the earning power of its residents, which was found to be increasing by an annual average of $4,320 increments, according to a 2013 Gallup Poll. Indeed, Forbes experts have projected that 54 percent of new jobs in the area are expected to be high-paying.
5. Casper, WY - GDP Per Capita: $76,174 USD
At number five, Casper, Wyoming is another metropolitan area whose economy has grown steadily due to oil and mining. Ranching and livestock production have contributed to the growth of Casper’s economy as well. Since the Forbes magazine named Casper among the “25 Best Small Areas to do Business” in 2004, the area has continued to see an increased growth in personal income and its rate of employment. With the rate of unemployment at only 2.08 percent and job growth at 1.89 percent, Casper is a growing economy, despite a 2007 downturn.
4. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA - GDP Per Capita: $80,643 USD
Among the most populous metros in the country, California's San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward MSA has also seen tremendous growth in its per capita income. The Metropolitan area has grown from a per capita income of $62,339 in 2008 all the way to $80,643 in 2014. Just like in the rest of the top per capita income metros, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward boasts a low unemployment rate of 6.4%, as well as an employment growth rate of 0.69%, commensurate with the per capita income’s steady growth. Ranked among the fastest growing economies with an annual increase of 7.4 percent in size, the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward economy relies heavily on professional and business services industries.
3. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT - GDP Per Capita: $94,349 USD
The third richest MSA award was given to Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut. The MSA has also been on an upward trend since experiencing a downturn in 2009, and recovering in 2010. The economic and social importance of Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk can be seen in its immense contribution to Connecticut’s state economy. As an indicator of the upward growth of the metro’s per capita income, the unemployment rate has reduced to 6.2 percent, with an employment growth of 1.74 percent. The MSA has the advantage of a diverse economy and its proximity to New York City. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, however, also has the disadvantage of being a high-cost area, with its average cost of living being significantly higher than that of the US average.
2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA - GDP Per Capita: $105,482 USD
California's San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan area has seen impressive growth since the 2009 recession, which can be attributed to technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Indeed, “Silicon Valley”, as the area is popularly known, was voted as the “Most High-Tech Region” in 2009. Its employment rate, a good indicator of economic growth, has been growing over time. Between 2012 and 2013, the unemployment rate in the MSA fell from 7.5% to 5.8%, a figure that has been consistently lower than that of the nation.
1. Midland, TX - GDP Per Capita: $162,786 USD
Positioned at number one, Midland, TX was declared the richest metropolitan statistical area in the US in 2014. The metro area has been on an upward swing regarding per capita real GDP for several years. The region’s personal income grew by 12.9% from 2009 to 2010, 11.9% from 2010 to 2011, and by 12.1% further from 2011 to 2012. The main contributors to this impressive growth are the oil and gas extraction sectors. As a matter of fact, 21.5% of the labor force in Midland, TX works in the petrochemical and mining industries. One indicator of the impactful performance of Midland’s economic growth is the hourly wage rate payed to retail workers there, which ranks 4th in the nation. However, the growth experienced over the years might experience a downturn owing to the recent drop in crude oil prices, according to analysts.