Grand Rapids trails other major cities in Michigan almost 3-1 in one important category: high salaries.

When It Comes To Making Six Figures, GR Falls Short

A new study analyzing the salaries of residents living in affordable cities around the US shows that Grand Rapids trails most Michigan cities in one key category: workers who make over $100,000 per year.

Only 2.4% of the workforce in Grand Rapids hit that milestone according to the survey conducted by, which found that after two decades of steady growth, the share of employees earning over $100k declined dramatically in 2021.

That figure is almost three times less than comparable cities in Michigan.

Adeol Eletu/Unsplash
Adeol Eletu/Unsplash

Ann Arbor And Lansing Outpace Grand Rapids Salaries By An Almost 3-1 Margin

Other Michigan cities held on to more six-figure earners with the Detroit metro topping the list with 8.7% of its workforce topping that figure, making it third best in the nation among major cities.

Ann Arbor was third among mid-sized cities in the nation (which is comparable to Grand Rapids), with 7.5% of its workforce hitting six figures, while Lansing fourth in that category at 7.3%.

JP Valery/Unsplash
JP Valery/Unsplash

So Why Is Grand Rapids Behind The Curve When It Comes To Big Salaries?

It's hard to say. It could be that the area's cost of living is lower, about 5.3% lower than the country as a whole.

Or it may be that the six-figure marker isn't an accurate measure of salaries overall in the Grand Rapids area, but it does make one wonder, are we getting the short shrift when it comes to pay for highly skilled positions? And does that create an economic disadvantage in any way?

The study didn't go into enough detail to answer that question, but it certainly is a point worth pondering.

Israel Andrade/Unsplash
Israel Andrade/Unsplash

It's my tendency to always look at the bright side. And it's this: maybe if you don't make too much money, there's less of a chance of getting your job cut.

Here is a summary of the data for the Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI metro area:

  • Share of employees in $100K+ occupations: 2.4%
  • Total employees in $100K+ occupations: 12,210
  • Total employees across all occupations: 507,580
  • Average wage for employees in $100K+ occupations: $120,377
  • Cost of living (compared to average): -5.3%

For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:

  • Share of employees in $100K+ occupations: 6.4%
  • Total employees in $100K+ occupations: 9,035,310
  • Total employees across all occupations: 140,886,310
  • Average wage for employees in $100K+ occupations: $124,453
  • Cost of living (compared to average): N/A

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