Seattle’s increase in median income accompanied by stable rates of poverty

By Emily Young, October 29, 2019

Despite an increase in the median household income in Seattle from 2017 to 2018, poverty rates have remained stable with no significant change. According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate of Seattle currently sits at about 12%.

In certain neighborhoods, the poverty rate is much higher. In the U-District, as well as the International District, Downtown, and Rainier Vista, the poverty rate is above 50%.

Excluding those living in dorms, Seattle has a higher concentration of college students living below the poverty line than any other major city in the country.

The poverty line is defined depending on household size. For example, as of 2018, for a person younger than 65 living alone, the federal poverty line lies at $13,064 a year of income, while for a family of four (two adults and two children), the family is considered poor if their income is below $25,465 a year.

The poverty line is set at a national level and therefore doesn’t account for variance in cost of living across the United States. It is worth noting that Seattle has one of the highest costs of living in the country, ranking fifth nationally according to the Cost of Living Index for the first quarter of 2019.

But while many Seattle residents are living in poverty, the median household income in Seattle increased by a dramatic 7.7% between 2017 and 2018, coming in at $93,481 a year. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a low income is equal to 80% of the median income, making a “low income” in Seattle $74,785, which is well above the federal poverty line.