Seattle has experienced a number of periods of tremendous growth and change. The Klondike Gold Rush made Seattle the “Gateway to Alaska”. Then, during the post-war Boeing boom, Seattle became known as “Jet City”.
While no one has yet invented a new nickname to describe the Seattle of the 2010s, the past decade has been – without a doubt – as big in terms of change as the previous ones.
But even in the Seattle area, some places have seen a lot more change than others. In March, I highlighted some of the most changed neighborhoods of the decade around King County based on five demographics. In this column, I examine five new ones, comparing the figures for the 2019 version with those for the 2010 version.
Here are the neighborhoods that stand out.
The Seattle area was already wealthy compared to much of the United States in 2010, but over the past decade we’ve reached a whole new level. But where have wages increased the most?
To do this, I looked at the median earnings of full-time workers residing in each census tract in King County. In Census Bureau terminology, “earnings” refers to wages and salaries (“income”, on the other hand, includes money that goes into a household from almost any source).
The eastern half of the South Lake Union / Denny Triangle area was the only area in the county where median incomes have more than doubled in the past decade.
In 2010, this area was in the bottom 15% of King County census tracts. The median income for a full-time worker who lived here was around $ 39,400. In a complete reversal, in 2019, this sector was in the top 15% of the richest sectors, with a median income for a full-time worker of $ 107,900.
The median represents the midpoint. In other words, half of the workers earn more and the other half earn less.
The South Lake Union / Denny Triangle area has of course been completely transformed over the decade with a massive redevelopment and consolidation of Amazon’s headquarters in the neighborhood. The neighborhood, which once had more parking lots than pedestrians, now boasts glittering glass towers and luxury apartment buildings, and is dotted with restaurants, cafes and CrossFit gyms.
Naturally, many of the people who live here work in tech occupations – almost 30% of employed residents – which explains the sharp increase in income. In 2019, the median salary for a technician in Seattle (employed full time) was $ 132,000, according to census data.
Amazon’s rapid growth didn’t just transform South Lake Union in the 2010s. Every nearby neighborhood felt the impact – lots of new people, apartment construction, higher rents and other signs. of gentrification.
The Westlake neighborhood, a stone’s throw from South Lake Union, is a perfect example. It’s almost unrecognizable today from what it looked like in 2010. Westlake and Dexter avenues are lined with tall new apartment buildings that have replaced vacant lots.
The neighborhood has experienced a population growth of almost 50% over the decade. And if you live here, there’s a good chance you lived somewhere far away just a year ago.
The Westlake EA, which includes part of the Queen Anne’s east side, has seen the largest increase in King County in terms of newcomers from out of state. In 2010, less than 5% of residents had lived outside Washington a year earlier. By 2019, that number had climbed to 22%, or more than 2,000 people (aged 1 and over) of the roughly 9,200 who live here.
Census data shows that of the 2,000 newcomers from outside Washington, about 55% moved here from another US state and 45% came from overseas.
It is not unusual for the Westlake census tract to have a high percentage of newcomers from overseas. Immigrants were a major driver of population growth in King County in the 2010s. In central Seattle and parts of the Eastside, many are tech workers from India or China. . But immigrants arrive in King County from all corners of the globe and take jobs in all industries.
More than half a million residents of King County – about a quarter of the total population – were born overseas, a census term describing anyone who is not a U.S. citizen by birth.
In two-thirds of King County’s census tracts, the percentage of foreign-born residents increased between 2010 and 2019. But which area has seen the biggest jump?
South King County is home to many immigrant communities, and the Riverton / Boulevard Park area – just south of Seattle’s South Park neighborhood – has seen the county’s largest increase in foreign-born residents. In 2010, the foreign-born represented only 15% of the total population of this region. By 2019, that number had climbed to 39%.
The foreign-born population here – around 2,300 people – has more than doubled over the decade. The largest segment of the foreign-born population is made up of people from Latin America (48% of the total), followed by those born in Asia (20%) and Africa (14%).
The 2010s saw tech workers become as ubiquitous as coffee shops in Seattle – and the software developer is now, in fact, the No.1 profession in King County. Nearly 100,000 county residents were employed full-time in IT-related jobs in 2019.
In some neighborhoods, mostly in the Eastside and downtown Seattle, the percentage of residents working in tech has skyrocketed over the decade.
The largest increase occurred in one census tract in the Crossroads section of Bellevue on the west side of the neighborhood. This area is just a little south of the Microsoft campus in Redmond.
Census data shows that in 2010, only about 15% of residents here (among those employed full time) were working in a technology occupation. In 2019, that figure more than doubled to 38%.
This census tract is also notable for having the highest percentage of foreign-born residents in King County, at 59%.
Just a little north of Crossroads, in the Overlake neighborhood of Redmond, is the only census tract in King County where the majority of active residents (52%) were in tech jobs in 2019.
With the cost of living in King County soaring in the 2010s, this is not easy for many families with children. And yes, some young couples have had to leave the county to start a family.
Despite this, there are some areas in King County where the percentage of households with children under the age of 18 has increased significantly over the past decade. I would have guessed that the biggest jump would have been in an area where housing costs are low compared to the rest of the county.
But in fact, the biggest increase in the number of families with children has occurred in a relatively expensive neighborhood.
In 2010, only about 29% of households in the southeastern Redmond / Bear Creek areas of Redmond had a child under the age of 18. By the end of the decade, that number had grown to almost half – 46%. There were nearly 400 more children in the region in 2019 than in 2010.
And here’s a clue as to why it happened. This area has seen an increase of about 20% in the number of owner-occupied dwellings, while the number of rental units has actually declined. In King County, landlords are much more likely to have children than renters.
You have to go far enough east to find the most kid-friendly area in the county. In Ames Lake, between Sammamish and Carnation, 69% of households had a child under the age of 18 in 2019.
But if you’re looking to live somewhere where you’re almost guaranteed to never see children, the southern half of Belltown in downtown Seattle is your best bet. Less than 2% of households had a child.
A few notes on the data:
I based the percentage of tech workers on the Census Bureau’s “computer and math trades” category. This includes some non-technological jobs (eg actuaries). But in King County, 96% of workers in this category are in IT-related jobs.
Because census tracts are small areas, in order to obtain a larger sample, the Census Bureau averages five years of data to produce its annual estimates. Thus, the 2019 data for census tracts represent the average of the years 2015 to 2019, and the 2010 data represent the average of the years 2006 to 2010.