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Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 24, 2013

Which city is richest? Depends on how the numbers are run

Pleasanton near top according to several measures

by Glenn Wohltmann

Pleasanton came out near the top of a recent list of the wealthiest cities in America.

The city placed No. 3 in the nation, with San Ramon at the top. Danville didn't make the list -- not because it's less wealthy, but because it's too small to count, and neither Dublin nor Livermore made the cut.

Personal financial advice website Nerdwallet put together a list of the top 500 cities in the country, based on population. Nerdwallet looked at cities that had the highest percentage in the nation of households bringing in $100,000 or more a year.

As of 2013, the U.S. Census put Pleasanton's population at 72,296, making it the 488th largest city in America.

Pleasanton came in third in the nation for wealth, according to Nerdwallet's calculation of highest-earning households, with 59.8 percent earning $100,000 or more. The website showed 22.3% earned $200,000 or more; 14.7% made $150,000 to $199,999; and 22.8% made $100,000 to 149,999.

San Ramon's population is 81,323, putting it at No. 420 in population; Danville had a population of 42,457 and was No. 967 on the list of the largest cities in the country. San Ramon came out on top, according to Nerdwallet, with 63.5% of its population earning $100,000 or more. Census figures show 25% of San Ramon households brought in $200,000 or more; 16.4% brought in $150,000 to $199,999; and 22.1% brought in $100,000 to $149,999.

Danville -- based on 2011 figures, the latest available for the town -- was a close second, with 63.2% of households bringing in $100,000 or more. Danville had more high-income households: 28.2% brought in $200,000 or more. It had fewer households that took in $150,000 to $199,99 -- 15.4% -- but more households that brought in $100,000 to $149,999. Altogether, that put Danville slightly lower, using those figures.

A case could be made that household earnings is a slanted way of measuring numbers; some families in San Ramon, particularly in Dougherty Valley, have two or more generations earning wages.

Pleasanton placed second for average home prices, with an average of $767,900, and using home prices as an indicator put Danville on top at $917,500, and San Ramon third of the three, at $739,700.

Looking at the census numbers for median income put Danville on top at $133,888. San Ramon also scored high at $121,756 per household, and Pleasanton at $120,437 per household.

So, which of the measures should be used to determine the wealth of a city? All three, according to Tracey Grose, vice president at the Bay Area Economic Institute.

"I would say they all are equally valid. The economy is a complex base, and you can only explain it by looking through the economic prism, if you will," Grose said. "You can portray a balance by looking at all three."

Grose said there's a fourth indicator, the "gini coefficient." That, she said, represents the distance between the highest income earners in an area and the lowest earners.

But, she said, the coefficient may not work to see which of the three cities is wealthiest, because it looks at a broader picture and can be "inconclusive" when narrowed to a specific city or town.