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Seattle tech workers have the highest rate of disposable income

A Zillow study finds that tech workers spend less of their income on housing here than in the Bay—or anywhere

Mitchell Haindfield/Flickr

Tech workers have more disposable income in Seattle than other major cities, according to a new report by real estate listing site Zillow and networking site LinkedIn.

The study sought out “sweet spots,” where an ecosystem of tax rates, housing costs, and salaries lead to high disposable incomes, in three different industries: technology finance, and healthcare.

After analyzing rental housing and employment data, they found that tech workers in Seattle can expect to have about $5,500 leftover, or about 54 percent of their income, after paying rent and taxes each month—compared to about $4,000 San Francisco.

The number jumps to nearly $6,000 a month if that tech worker owns their home.

In fact, Seattle had the highest rate of disposable income for tech workers who rent out of all the cities analyzed, followed by Austin and Pittsburgh. San Francisco came in fourth—still high-ranking because of comparably high salaries.

There could be several reasons that the study points to Seattle as having that sweet spot between income, taxes, and housing costs for tech workers.

Zillow and LinkedIn’s study looked at income tax rates to determine net income, for example, something that Seattle doesn’t have. A recent study found that Seattle actually has one of the highest tax burdens on the poor versus the well-off.

Compared to other cities, Seattle’s tax structure is friendly to middle and high-earners—for example, someone for whom $5,500 is 54 percent of their monthly income.

Despite a relative friendliness to workers in the tech sector, the report notes, both Seattle and San Francisco are subject to rising housing costs on the West Coast, where housing costs often add up to around half the area median income.

This is especially true for industries not in the “sweet spot.” Not everyone’s a tech worker—a frequent point of contention in discussions of Seattle’s rising rent costs. Looking at the whole picture for workers in other industries, Seattle doesn’t look as good.

For finance workers, Seattle ranked seventh in post-housing disposable income—Charlotte, North Carolina topped that list. For healthcare workers, Seattle falls to eighth place.

This is all in stark contrast to a minimum wage earner—even before taxes and rent, a service employee working 40 hours a week for $15 an hour has a gross monthly pay of about $2,600 a month, or less than that typical tech worker’s entire disposable income.