San Francisco is not as big as its proponents think.
While locals like to compare San Francisco to New York and Los Angeles, the Big Apple is 10 times the size of Marina Bay, and ours is less than a quarter the size of Los Angeles.
With only 815,000 residents, we don’t even make the list of the 15 most populous cities in the country.
But as a center of culture, technological innovation, and political power, SF has always excelled. So when the U.S. Census Bureau released a trove of new data on cities across the country, The Criterion began to find out: San Francisco leading the nation in 2021?
We compared San Francisco to 37 U.S. cities with more than 500,000 residents based on hundreds of metrics recorded in the 2021 American Community Survey. Here’s what we found.
Streets paved with gold, kind of like
By 2021, San Francisco will have more top-income households ($200,000 and above) than any other major city. That’s the amount of money nearly one-third of San Francisco households bring home.
San Francisco’s median household income of $122,000 is the highest in the nation after neighboring San Jose. Even starting at No. 2, our median household income is $50,000 higher than the nation’s.
Despite the city’s high overall income, more than a third of San Francisco households will have an income of less than $75,000 in 2021. In fact, San Francisco saw the largest increase in the number of households using SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, between 2019 and 2019. 2021. During this period, that number more than doubled, as nearly 42,000 households reported using the aid in 2021.
Even those with high salaries are stifled by the city’s high cost of living. San Francisco has the nation’s wealthiest renters and high-income earners who are locked out of an expensive housing market.
Deep Chinese American roots
Chinese Americans make up a larger percentage of San Francisco’s population than any other major city. By 2021, more than one in five San Francisco people (about 180,000 people) will have Chinese ancestry. Of course, this fits with the city’s rich Chinese history dating back to the Gold Rush era.
While New York City does have a much larger Chinese-American population, around 574,000, that number is only 7 percent of the city’s total population.
Overall, about 40% of San Francisco people are Asian American, and we are second in that category, behind San Jose at 42%. Sacramento came in third with 23 percent.
San Francisco is the oldest major city in the United States. Or at least its people are.
SF’s median age in 2021 is 40.4 years. Las Vegas and Albuquerque came in second and third, respectively. Meanwhile, Milwaukee is the youngest big city in America, followed by young Fort Worth and Fresno.
We have very good genes in San Francisco; the top 2.6% of the nation’s residents exceed the US life expectancy and are 85 or older. Nearly 21 percent of San Francisco residents are 62 or older, second only to Mesa, Arizona.
Meanwhile, San Francisco has fewer 15- to 19-year-olds than any other city, as do 20- to 24-year-olds. San Francisco has 14 percent of its population under 18, and only Seattle has a smaller proportion of minors. Meanwhile, in Fresno, children make up nearly 28 percent of residents.
The 2021 census data provides a glimpse into the demographic changes the city has seen since the first year of the pandemic. It remains to be seen whether San Francisco will continue to be the wealthiest, oldest and most ethnically Chinese major city in the United States, but early data for 2022 suggests San Francisco’s pandemic-era exodus may have tapered off.