Where to Move for the Highest Paychecks

BOSTON (MainStreet) — Looking to make a fresh start in 2014? Here's a look at the five U.S. cities you can move to and find the highest-paying jobs, even after factoring in such variables as your education level and chosen profession.

"There's no one definitive reason that explains why these communities have high pay. Economists have various theories for the differences between cities," says Jed Kolko of home-buying site Trulia.com, which recently analyzed average earnings in 1,900 U.S. metro areas.

Kolko, who serves as chief economist at Trulia, says many experts believe cities with the highest pay scales have lots of educated workers who boost productivity levels — freeing up money for big salaries.

"The one thing these cities have in common is that they all have pretty educated populations," he says. "People in these metros tend to have higher education levels or more skills."

The expert adds that many high-wage cities also have lots of firms in lucrative sectors such as technology or financial services, where everyone from the CEO to the janitor typically enjoys generous pay.

Still, Kolko says consumers shouldn't simply flock to the cities at the top of Trulia's list, as "home prices there are usually high — and if everyone moved there, they'd get ever higher."

But if that's not enough to deter you, click below to check out which cities offer workers the highest average earnings after adjusting for factors such as profession and education.

Trulia based its rankings on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey five-year public use microdata sample for 2011, the latest year with figures available.

All numbers refer to locations where people work rather than live, and statistics cover entire metro areas rather than just city limits. "Earnings premium" figures estimate how much extra you can expect to make in a given city when compared with the national average for people who have similar qualifications.

Fifth-best metro area for high-paying jobs: Oakland, Calif.
Earnings premium:
21.7%

Located across the bay from San Francisco and some 40 miles north of Silicon Valley, the Oakland area shares its two neighbors' reputations for plenty of high-wage, high-tech jobs.

Kolko attributes Oakland residents' above-average earnings partly to their high levels of education. "There's a great university there, and that kind of thing tends to raise the educational level of an entire metro area," he says, referring to the University of California, Berkeley.

If that sounds good to you, click here to check out more than 1,700 Oakland-area homes listed for sale.

Fourth-best metro area for high-paying jobs: Washington, D.C.
Earnings premium:
26.3%

Consider Washington's above-average pay scales a sign of your tax dollars at work.

Kolko says D.C.-area workers enjoy generous salaries partly because "government and related-industries often pay well."

He also says our nation's capital has a high percentage of residents with college degrees, which correlates with greater earnings. "The overall education level of the Washington area is high," Kolko says.

You can see some 1,600 Washington listings here.

Third-best metro area for high-paying jobs: Fairfield County, Conn.
Earnings premium:
27.4%

Located about 30 miles north of Manhattan, Fairfield County is home to both superfancy New York City suburbs and business-friendly communities such as Stamford and Danbury.

General Electric, Xerox and other Fortune 500 companies all have their world headquarters in Fairfield County, as do hedge funds such as Bridgewater Associates and SAC Capital Advisors. "There are tons of financial-services firms in Fairfield County, and that's an industry that tends to pay more than others do for similar workers," Kolko says.

Many of the New York metro area's richest people also live in Darien, Greenwich and other exclusive Fairfield County communities, so there's lots of money around to pay for service workers.

Click here for a rundown of some 8,000 Fairfield County homes that are for sale.

Second-best metro area for high-paying jobs: San Francisco
Earnings premium:
29.4%

If you've left your heart in San Francisco, don't worry — you can probably earn enough to buy a new one.

That's because the typical San Francisco-area worker makes nearly 30% more than the U.S. average for Americans with comparable skills and experience.

Kolko says the home of Yelp, Instagram and other new-economy darlings has plenty of high-paying jobs thanks to San Francisco's educated workforce and strong technology sector. "The tech industry tends to pay very well," he says.

Trulia lists some 1,300 San Francisco homes for sale here.

Best metro area for high-paying jobs: San Jose, Calif.
Earnings premium:
33.9%

Move to Silicon Valley's largest city and you can expect to make more than one-third above what the average American with a comparable job and skill levels earns.

Again, Kolko attributes San Jose's high wages to the famous Silicon Valley tech sector and the highly educated workers that it attracts.

Interested in moving there? Click here to check out Trulia's more than 1,000 San Jose listings.

— By Jerry Kronenberg

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