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The Most Prosperous City in America Is …

Picking the most prosperous city in America is a weighty task. What factors should be considered, and how should each be weighted against the others? However you arrange the calculations, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t have settled on Odessa, Texas, as the most prosperous city in the nation, but that’s exactly what a new study by RENTCafe [1] has determined.

First, a bit of methodology. RENTCafe began by narrowing things down to cities with populations exceeding 100,000. From there, RENTCafe examined U.S. Census data between 2000-2016, examining the evolution of six indicators during that time, including population, median income, home values, share of inhabitants holding a higher education degree, poverty rate and unemployment rate. From there, RENTCafe compiled a “prosperity ranking” that is “based on the combined value of the individual ranks obtained in these six fields.”

So, how did Odessa—the 28th most populous [2] city in Texas, as of 2015 and 2016 census data—land atop the pile? Well, it may lag far behind larger cities in terms of population, but that population has grown by 25 percent during the 2000-2016 window examined by RENTCafe. During that same period, Odessa experienced income growth of 38 percent, home value increase of 91 percent, and a 26 percent increase in the share of its population who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Odessa has also seen a pair of important decreases—the poverty rate has dropped by 36 percent and unemployment has decreased by 24 percent. RENTCafe also points out that U.S. crude oil production also spiked by 50 percent during that window of time, likely helping to explain why a west Texas oil town like Odessa has been booming.

Filling out the rest of RENTCafe’s top 10 most prosperous U.S. cities are, in order, Washington, D.C.; Charleston, South Carolina; Fontana, California; North Charleston, South Carolina; Jersey City, New Jersey; Pearland, Texas; Miami, Florida; Brownsville, Texas; and Midland, Texas.

Texas was particularly well represented on the list, with six of the top 20 cities on the list located within the Lone Star State. That puts it one ahead of California.

Eleven cities in the study showed positive change across all six of RENTCafe’s prosperity indicators: Odessa, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Charleston, South Carolina; Brownsville, Texas; Midland, Texas; New York, New York; Los Angeles, California; Billings, Montana; Long Beach, California; Atlanta, Georgia; and Corpus Christi, Texas.