Despite Recovery, Wages Sink in 80 Percent of Big Metros

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America's largest metropolitan areas saw robust growth during the economic recovery, but relatively few residents achieved a higher quality of life, says a new report.

While many of America’s largest metropolitan areas saw robust growth during the economic recovery, median wages fell in the vast majority of these areas, and many residents did not achieve a higher quality of life.

Those facts emerged in a report from the nonprofit Brookings Institution that is billed as a new way to measure economic growth in U.S. metros.

Brookings says its report attempts to measure not only economic growth, “but also how growth is achieved and who benefits from it.” It examines three metrics in each metro:

  • Growth — changes in the size of the economy
  • Prosperity — changes in the economic well-being of workers and residents
  • Inclusion — changes in disparities by income and race

Among the findings are that between 2009 and 2014, only nine of the 100 largest metro areas outperformed averages in growth, prosperity, inclusion and inclusion by race, according to Brookings. For example, the study found that:

  • Median wages declined in 80 of the 100 areas.
  • Just 21 metros saw a significant narrowing of the gap between whites and people of color on measures of median wage, relative income poverty and employment.

Report co-author Alan Berube, Brookings senior fellow and deputy director, concludes in a news release:

 “Local leaders hoping to extend and accelerate this economic recovery need to make deliberate efforts to ensure that more people and communities benefit from a rising tide.”

The study also ranked the largest 100 metro areas based on growth, prosperity, inclusion by income and inclusion by race:



  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
  2. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
  3. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas


  1. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
  2. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  3. Wichita, Kansas



  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
  2. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas
  3. Austin-Round Rock, Texas


  1. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada
  2. Palm Beach-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
  3. New Orleans-Metairie, Louisiana



  1. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  2. Springfield, Massachusetts
  3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California


  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  2. Augusta, Georgia-Richmond County, South Carolina
  3. Columbia, South Carolina

Inclusion by race


  1. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida
  2. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada
  3. Bakersfield, California


  1. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida
  2. Augusta, Georgia-Richmond County, South Carolina
  3. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Florida

What’s your take on these findings? Share your reaction in a comment below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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