Everything’s bigger in Texas, including personal spending. Two of the top five U.S. cities for spending were in the Lonestar State, according to the Bundle Report 2010. Austin, Texas, topped the list, followed by Scottsdale, Ariz., and San Jose, Calif. Plano, Texas, came in at fifth.
The amount of spending done by a city is a good indicator of how much disposable income its citizens have. If a city spends a lot, it follows that its citizens would earn a lot, and that’s how the results turned out. Some of the nation’s most spendthrift cities were among those hit hardest by the recession and the corresponding unemployment surge. On the flip side, the cities that spent most were some of those that weathered the recession. Having a low basic cost of living (rent and transportation) also made cities more likely to spend.
Mid-Sized Cities Spend Away
Many of the cities that came in at or near the top of Bundle’s study are mid-sized cities that are part of a larger metropolitan area.
Austin, Texas, is the capital of the state and is an economic and cultural center in its own right. The city, which is the center of a metropolitan area of 1.7 million people, boasts one of the nation’s biggest colleges (University of Texas) and thriving arts and music scenes that bring thousands to the annual SXSW Festival. Austin survived the recession because its economy is centered on high-tech and national defense jobs. The average Austin citizen spent just more than $67,000 in 2009, about $3,000 more than the average Scottsdale, Ariz., denizen.
San Jose, Calif. (#3), Arlington, Va. (#4), and Plano, Texas (#5), are all cities within larger metro areas. San Jose is well-known for its flourishing technology sector, while Arlington and Plano are attached to booming cities in Washington, D.C., and Dallas, respectively. Scottsdale, Ariz. (#2), is a mid-sized city nestled in the mountains of Arizona. It didn’t emerge unscathed from the recession, but its overwhelming population growth in the decades leading up to the economic slowdown helped it power through the storm. Another tech-savvy city to crack the top 15 was Seattle.
Industrial Centers Struggle
Two of the cities that spent the least in 2009 were major centers of industry that suffered greatly after the collapse of the economy. Detroit placed last among the top 100 most populated cities while Toledo, Ohio, placed fourth-to-last.
Detroit, still one of America’s most populated cities despite the wholesale abandonment of many neighborhoods in recent years, hit the skids along with the American automobile industry. When General Motors declared bankruptcy, it showed just how far the capital of U.S. industry ha
d fallen. The average citizen of Detroit felt the economic pain, spending about $16,000 in 2009, about 25% of the average citizen in Austin, Texas.
Where’s The Big Apple?
New York City is America’s financial hub. So why isn’t it in the top spot? Or even the top 20?
New York is just too big and too economically diverse to show up on Bundle’s list. While the borough of Manhattan would have ranked 3rd on its own at $59,602 per person in 2009, the economic situation in the city’s outlying boroughs dropped NYC’s average rate of spending to just below average: 53rd overall. America’s other megacities aren’t filled with big spenders, either. Neither Los Angeles or Chicago ended up in the top 40 locales in terms of median spending power.