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Income: Summary & Data Highlights

Income inequality by race and ethnicity persists in King County.

Wealth is the flip side of poverty, which the United Nations defines as “a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity.” A living wage opens the door to choice and opportunity.  The distribution of wealth can enhance or undermine a society’s collective dignity.

Median Income

Income disparities by race/ethnicity in King County persist.

  • From 1999 to 2014, income increased for Asians, whites, and Hispanics, but not for Blacks. Between 2010 and 2014, income increased significantly only for whites See Notes & Sources for table showing income over time for all racial/ethnic groups. 
  • The 2014 median income for Blacks was less than half of median income for Asians and whites.

King County median income grew slowly from 1999 to 2007.

  • Between 2007 and 2010, median income did not change significantly.
  • When adjusted for inflation, real income has not grown in at least 2 decades.

Men’s income advantage over women is magnified in households with children.

  • Median income for women raising children without a husband was only 58% of the income for men raising children without a wife.
  • In households without children, women without a husband earned 83% of men without a wife.

Over the past 3 decades, the distribution of income in King County has continued its gradual shift to households at the highest income levels.

  • 49% of King County income goes to those in the top 20% of earners.
  • The bottom 60% of wage earners went from getting 32% of total income in 1979 to 27% in 2010.


Poverty in King County has stayed high despite economic "recovery." In 2013 ...

  • Over 16% of King County children (about 70,000) lived in poverty, up from 10% in 1989 and 1999, and 13% in 2007. The percentage hasn't changed since 2010, but the number of children has increased by about 5,000.
  • More than 12% of King County residents of all ages (about 254,000) lived in poverty, up from 8% in 1989 and 1999, and 10% in 2007. Again, the percentage is unchanged since 2010, but the number living in poverty is up by about 20,000.

In 2013, Blacks were more likely than almost all other racial/ethnici groups to live in poverty. The percentage of residents (all ages) living below the Federal Poverty Threshold in 2013 was...

  • 35% for Blacks.
  • 26% for Hispanics.
  • 25% for "other race."
  • 22% for American Indians/Alaska Natives.
  • 18% for Multiple-race individuals.
  • 18% for Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders.
  • 12% for Asians.
  • 9% for whites.

Living Wage

For families with children, full-time, year-round employment at a minimum-wage job brings in less than half of a “living wage” – the income needed to cover necessities and save for the future.

For most households, the income needed for a living wage continues to rise. Despite modest overall inflation since 2007, the costs of basic necessities have increased substantially. 

Fewer than half of Washington job openings in 2014 paid a living wage for families with children.


National Wealth Disparities

Instead of accumulating wealth for future needs, many U.S. residents are losing ground financially. This is disproportionately true for …

  • Adults younger than 35 years old compared to those 65 and older.
  • Blacks and Hispanics.

From 2005 to 2009, household wealth declined most for young adults and people of color.

"Our boss always tells me that she’s paying me top dollar, and I’m like, this is not top dollar, not for the type of work that I have to do. She is paying me 14 dollars an hour and I am the director of this child care center; they don’t offer health insurance benefits either."
Single mother living with her 2 children in South King County.  She had to cut her work hours to maintain eligibility for the child care subsidy that enabled her to make ends meet.