Six Bay Area counties have the highest median incomes in California, based on a ranking of joint tax returns by the State’s Franchise Tax Board.  And believe it or not, with a median income of $93,404, versus a statewide average of $73,378, San Francisco comes in at number six.

The ten counties in California with the highest median incomes based on joint returns:

  1. Marin ($133,389)
  2. San Mateo ($115,651)
  3. Santa Clara ($115,013)
  4. Alameda ($97,715)
  5. Contra Costa ($96,748)
  6. San Francisco ($93,404)
  7. Placer ($87,258)
  8. El Dorado ($86,746)
  9. Orange ($80,550)
  10. Ventura ($79,150)

By definition, the ranking above doesn’t take into account couples who file separately.  And the incomes above are based on 2013 tax returns as the FTB’s analysis lags a year in order to include filings from taxpayers who received extensions.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Me

    Damn, SF, you po’!

  2. Posted by shza

    It would be interesting to see how many times higher these numbers would be if they could show the subset of people who have moved to each county in the past 3, 5, 10 years.

  3. Posted by Amewsed

    Tax returns only tell part of a story…if you have wage, interest, dividend, capital gains income and itemized deductions. There is a lot of room for creative manipulation for folks with cash only businesses, passive income, or sophisticated tax shelters.

    • Posted by shza

      I’m sure the much bigger reason for the numbers looking so low is that there are an enormous amount of people that have lived in these counties for 15 or 20 or 30 plus years (whether owning or RC-renting) who could not come close to affording it if they were arriving now. Hence my thought above.

  4. Posted by moto mayhem

    would like to see the tiering. top 40%, top 25%, top 10%, top 5%, top 1%

    i can’t imagin the top 25% is not over 250K

    • Posted by REpornaddict

      I suspect not, not by a long way.

      With 50% at $93k or lower, 250k seems way to much of a jump. IN other words, as many at 250k + as 93-250?

      And things would, I think, have to drop off dramatically at the bottom too, to come back to an overall median of 93 if 1/4 were 250k +

  5. Posted by moto mayhem

    also, i would venture that average income is more like $175K, pulled up by very large salaries of the top 20%

  6. Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

    Looking only at joint returns skews the numbers very high – married couples are going to represent the highest segment of earners. The numbers are very different if you look at medians for all tax returns:

    Marin $57,244
    San Mateo $53,972
    Santa Clara $51,937
    San Francisco $49,777

    I believe these numbers are gross earnings, not AGI, although the Franchise Tax Board web site is not clear on this.

    Thus, half of SF residents who file tax returns earned less than $49,777 in 2013 (and, of course, the lowest earners don’t file any tax returns, so the median income for all residents is even lower). This is why long-term RC tenants are scared to death of the rapid changes in the cost of living. A huge segment of the population could never afford to live here at current market prices.

  7. Posted by Mark

    These are based on JOINT RETURNS, most people in San Francisco are not married.

  8. Posted by Amewsed

    I know at least one couple who live together but not legally marry because: 1) they did not want children; 2) to avoid the taxable income limitations which come with marriage. There must be many others like them.

    I really don’t like making important life choices such as marriage based on existing tax code — tail wagging the dog. But if the spouse and/or mistress is tax deductible…

  9. Posted by jwb

    Someone explain El Dorado and Placer for me. Is it high because of Tahoe or high because of Sac or neither?

    • Posted by Fishchum

      Yeah, I was curious about those as well.

      • Posted by Gur

        Placer and El Dorado include the affluent suburbs of Sacramento (e.g., Roseville, Granite Bay, El Dorado HIlls) and extend up all the way to the Tahoe basin, with a relatively lower overall population. There is also a significant population of Bay Area/SoCal retirees and transplants in both areas (appears to be calculated on AGI?).

  10. Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

    How do I figure out if I’m in the 1% in my county?

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