If you’re broke, come to Utah’s high-wage capital

Remember all the talk about how wages in the Salt Lake City area were so low compared to elsewhere? I heard this almost from the moment I moved here in 1986.

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Those figures always have depended on how you measure them, and the worries always were a bit overblown. Utahns tend to rank low in per capita income because families here have more children on average than families in other states. Even so, it ranks far from the bottom.

But when it comes to income by household, the Wasatch Front does quite well.

As evidence, look at a list by CreditDonkey.com, cleverly titled, “Best Cities for the Broke.” Salt Lake City comes in fifth, and this is despite the fact that the cost of living is the highest of any city on the list. This was mitigated by the fact that Salt Lake residents “also have the highest household income at over $60,000 and the lowest unemployment at just 3.5 percent.”

The website said, “That means if you relocate to Salt Lake City, you should be able to find a reasonably paying job.”

The overall lesson of the list seems to be that if you’re broke, you should stay away from oceans. Cities along the coasts are expensive and suffer from high unemployment. If Horace Greeley were alive today, he would say, “Go inland, young man.” (Well, maybe he would be more politically correct and say, “Go inland, young person,” but you get the idea.)

The top city on the list is Omaha, Neb., which “offers that rare, perfect trifecta of cheap living, reasonable wages, and low unemployment.” It is followed by Des Moines, Iowa, which grants “the promising combination of cheap living and upwardly mobile job prospects.”

Cedar Rapids, close to Des Moines, came in third, followed by Huntsville, Ala., which (fun fact), “is the second most educated city on the list.” The most educated would be Austin, Texas, which came in just below Salt Lake City at sixth.

Rankings should be taken lightly, on their own. I doubt many broke people in Los Angeles are going to flock to Omaha in reverse-Okie caravans (if so, they could even go back to Tulsa, the ninth city on the list).

But the many rankings that place Salt Lake City and environs high for business, quality of life and entrepreneurship, etc., do add up to an indication that Utah is doing something right economically.

At least, I don’t hear a lot of those complaints about low wages that I used to.

Categories: Utah issues

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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