Health & Medicine

Which city’s health workers boast highest disposable income? Hint: It’s a capital

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See which health care jobs are growing the fastest in California. These health care jobs each have more than 100 average annual job openings.

Sacramento's health care workers take home more of their pay than their peers living in the nation's 100 most populous cities, including Dallas-Fort Worth and San Jose, according to a cost-of-living analysis done by the online rental listing service RentCafe.

"The high ranking on our list is mainly due to the very wallet-friendly prices in the (Sacramento) metro" area, said RentCafe researcher Balazs Szekely. "Salaries in this field are actually somewhat slimmer (in the capital region) when compared to the same jobs in San Francisco or San Jose. The cost of living, however, is considerably smaller, only about two-thirds of that in the Bay Area."

The RentCafe analysis looked at wages for individuals that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as health care practitioners and technical workers and those in the BLS category of health care support. The researchers used the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's living wage calculator to determine living expenses.

This calculator does have drawbacks when using it for living expenses: It doesn't factor in the impact of state taxes and it counts on people living a Spartan existence. When it comes to lodging, for instance, the MIT calculator uses fair-market rent estimates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

So, in Sacramento, the calculator factors in only $734.25 a month for a studio apartment; in Dallas, $681.58.

It's likely that health care practitioners and technical workers will want accommodations that cost much more than that in both cities. People in these fields work as chiropractors, pharmacists, doctors, respiratory therapists and nurses. Health care support workers, on the other hand, include home health aides, massage therapists, psychiatric aides and phlebotomists among their ranks.

Health care practitioners and technical workers in the Sacramento area earn an average of $76,300 a year and take home about $53,900 after federal taxes and basic living expenses, according to the RentCafe data. In San Francisco, workers in those same occupations earn an average of $86,100 but take home $52,300, and in San Jose, the average salary is $81,300 and the take-home is even lower at $49,300.

Those two regions ranked second- and third-highest respectively for take-home pay in the health care practitioner and technical worker category. A number of workers are moving across the country to states such as Texas where there is no state income taxes and where the cost of living is viewed as cheaper than in California. But the analysis by RentCafe shows this strategy won't pay off for health care practitioners and technical workers.

Dallas-Fort Worth, for example, ranked at No. 31 with $33,100 left for health practitioners and technical workers and at No. 43 for health care support workers with just $3,100 left in disposable income.

RentCafe spokesman Adrian Rosenberg said the company compiles such data because it could be a useful tool that puts things into perspective for renters considering jobs in other markets. The company also can cross-reference the data as part of its reports on apartment markets.

In the Sacramento metropolitan statistical area, which includes El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties, roughly 49,630 individuals work as health practitioners or technicians and about 21,710 work in health care support, according to the most recent BLS occupational data survey from May 2017.

Health care support workers in the Sacramento region have $9,500 in disposable income after paying off living expenses of $22,400. That compares with disposable income of $8,900 in the Stockton-Lodi area and $7,100 in Las Vegas, which ranked second and third respectively in this occupational category.

While Sacramento had the top take-home pay in these two health care worker categories, other metro regions in California took No. 1 spots for different occupations. San Jose provided the highest amount of disposable income for people working in the fields of architecture and engineering, business and financial operations, computer and mathematical, legal, and management.

Bakersfield took top honors for people working in protective service such as firefighters and law enforcement, and perhaps it's to be expected that Los Angeles ranked highest for individuals whose careers were in the category of arts, design, entertainment, sports and media.

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