Flint was 1980’s Richest City for Young People, Guess Where it is Now
Once upon a time, Flint, Michigan was the best place to be if you were a young worker. The city was just ahead of San Francisco in that regard. While "the city by the bay" remains atop that list, the metropolis once known as "Vehicle City" has not fared so well.
According to an article published earlier this year by The Atlantic, Flint was considered the "Richest U.S. City for Young People." It's a bit of a convoluted designation, but it basically means the city with the highest median income among workers 35 and younger.
In 1980, Flint was atop that list, with an average median income of $50,208 per year. It should be noted that $50k went a lot further in 1980 than it does now. Hell, back then the average median income across the country was just over $19k/yr and you could buy a new Z28 Camaro for just north of $7,000. Life was good in 1980.
Detroit was also high on the list in 1980, landing at second with an average median income of $47,460/yr among young workers. Arguably, Detroit should be #1 on this list since their population was almost ten times that of Flint back then. In fact, the article says the list includes only cities larger than 450,000 people, which is not true since Flint only had a population of nearly 200,000 at its peak in the 1960s. Technically, Flint should not be on this list, but it is so we're going to continue.
Fast forward to 2013 (these stats tend to be a few years behind), where Flint and Detroit have fallen harder than all 10 of the other cities on the list... by a lot. San Jose, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. have all risen more than 10% in median income, while Flint has fallen the hardest with close to a 40% drop. Detroit only had a -26% change in median income among workers below 35, which was enough for the second most radical shift in the group.
Even though Flint had most drastic decrease percentage-wise, the city was still ahead of dead last (Youngstown, Ohio) by about $500 in average median income as of 2013 with $30,732/yr. That's $19,476 less than the Flint average in 1980, which is so much less when you factor in inflation that we don't even want to think about it.
To be fair, all of the cities on the list, except for the aforementioned current top 3, are showing a net loss over the 33 year period. Unfortunately, ours is at the bottom of that list by a landslide. That's what happens when you take a booming economy and subtract more than 70,000 good-paying automotive jobs.