The highest household income in Tampa Bay goes to . . . Wesley Chapel

The Pasco County 'burb far outpaced the region as a whole. What kind of jobs help residents earn the big bucks?
Fireworks burst high above the crowd during the Freedom Festival held on the eve of Independence Day at The Shops of Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.
Fireworks burst high above the crowd during the Freedom Festival held on the eve of Independence Day at The Shops of Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel. [ JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Oct. 24, 2019|Updated Oct. 25, 2019

For the uninitiated, Wesley Chapel might bring to mind congestion on Interstate 75, or maybe the Shops at Wiregrass.

Here’s something else to add: Big paychecks.

Wesley Chapel boasts the highest median household income in the Tampa Bay area. At $86,885, the central Pasco County enclave had a substantial lead over second-place Riverview and third-place Brandon, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis of recently released U.S. Census Bureau data. The number also dwarfed our area’s typical household income of a little less than $55,000.

Wesley Chapel households are far more likely to earn at least $100,000 a year and far less likely to experience poverty, the analysis shows. Wesley Chapel also has the highest median household income for African-Americans in the Tampa Bay area at $75,198, though it comes with a larger margin of error.

Wesley Chapel lies just north of the Hillsborough County line, straddling both I-75 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The population soared from less than 16,000 in 2000 to over 65,000 today, transforming the once rural area into a Tampa suburb with thousands of new families and tracts of new homes.

The income figures don’t surprise Hope Allen, president and CEO of the North Tampa Chamber.

Hope Allen, president and CEO of the North Tampa Bay Chamber.
Hope Allen, president and CEO of the North Tampa Bay Chamber. [ North Tampa Bay Chamber ]

“It is another stat to underscore our thriving community,” she said.

The income data includes everything from tips and bonuses to Social Security and royalty payments. The Census counts interest and dividends but not capital gains made from selling investments like stocks, bonds or real estate. Median income signifies the point at which half the households make more and half make less.

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The figures come with a couple of caveats. The latest government data is for cities and “census-designated places” with at least 60,000 residents, of which there are 47 in Florida. Wealthy hubs like FishHawk Ranch and Tierra Verde were too small to make the cut.

Also, major cities were treated as one place. So Tampa and St. Petersburg weren’t broken down into various neighborhoods, some of which would have higher incomes than Wesley Chapel.

With the disclaimer out of the way, what’s driving the numbers in Wesley Chapel? No surprise that it starts with well-paying jobs.

Wesley Chapel residents access an array of good employment options near the University of South Florida, downtown Tampa and the Westshore district. They also benefit from the boom in home building and construction in Pasco, and northern and eastern Hillsborough.

The Epperson neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, home of the Crystal Lagoon.
The Epperson neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, home of the Crystal Lagoon. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

A little more than 26,000 full-time workers live in Wesley Chapel. Sales is the most popular job category, employing about 4,200 people who earn almost $56,000 a year. That’s $10,000 more a year than the typical sales jobs in the Tampa Bay area, which includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

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Not bad, but three of the next four most popular occupations in Wesley Chapel pay even better — management at $62,299, health care (diagnosing and treating) at $71,258 and finance at $75,670. Nearly one-third of Wesley Chapel residents work in those three fields.

A household with a married couple holding down two typical jobs in finance would pull in more than $150,000 a year.

That’s more likely to happen in Wesley Chapel than in many other areas, the analysis shows. A disproportionate number of Wesley Chapel adults are married — about 81 percent — and both spouses work in most cases. Since we are talking about household income, two bread earners under one roof boosts the totals.

In Tampa and St. Petersburg, only about two-thirds of adults are married. A far higher percentage of people are living alone than in Wesley Chapel. They might have well-paying jobs, but for most it’s hard to stack up financially against a household with two incomes.

Wesley Chapel residents also own their own homes more often than in many other places. Homeowners are more likely to work full time and generally have more stable incomes than renters.

Wesley Chapel had the fifth-highest household income in the state, behind Weston, a city bordering the Everglades that took the No. 1 spot. Wellington, Boca Raton and Jupiter — all near Florida’s southeast coast — filled out the top five.

Kissimmee had the lowest median household income among the 47 places the data covered in Florida at $35,574. Pine Hills near Orlando and Hialeah north of Miami weren’t much better.

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Florida’s top 10

The cities and census designated places* with the highest median household incomes, which means half earned more and half earned less.

  1. Weston, $105,591
  2. Wellington, $98,559
  3. Boca Raton, $91,438
  4. Jupiter, $88,384
  5. Wesley Chapel, $86,885
  6. Plantation, $75,920
  7. Coral Springs, $75,479
  8. Davie, $75,202
  9. Kendall, $72,546
  10. Alafaya (near Orlando), $71,288

Tampa Bay* top five

  1. Wesley Chapel, $86,885
  2. Riverview, $67,744
  3. Brandon, $61,372
  4. Palm Harbor, $59,672
  5. St. Petersburg, $58,057

U.S. top five

  1. Sammamish, Wash., $183,038
  2. San Ramon, Calif., $175,974
  3. Palo Alto, Calif., $162,319
  4. Pleasanton, Calif., $161,588
  5. Sunnyvale, Calif. $150,450

*The latest Census data includes cities and places with at least 60,000 residents. In this case, Tampa Bay is made up of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.