How local city household incomes, worker wages look in Census multi-year estimates

A recently-released set of Census Bureau social and economic multi-year estimates offers a glimpse over a period of time at the six major cities in the Tri-Cities region in their recovery from the Great Recession and still evolving restructuring to a new economy. Five of the selected economic items – medians and mean household incomes and median wages for three types of workers –  show shifts that illustrate some attributes of both the recession and recovery.

These 2012-2016 estimates are being compared to the 2007-2011 estimates, so there’s no overlap of data but still providing a comparison of local economies in pre- and early recession time frame to the restructuring period. I didn’t use the term recover because neither of the region’s economy has recovered to pre-recession levels. That assessment comes from year-over-year and per capita per gross domestic product reports from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Each data set is designed to provide estimates that describe the aggregate characteristics of an area over a specific time period and should not be looked at as annual averages.

Readers of my reports on the one-year estimates will notice differences with the multi-year estimates. That’s because the impacts of economic events in the five-year studies are more noticeable in smaller areas where changes have a larger affect. Generally, the one-year estimates are preferred since they are more relevant to current conditions. The multi-year estimates provide a smoothing of the upward trend a likely give a better portrayal of the change in proportion over time.

So, what do the five-year estimates say about local cities? In general, median household income and median earnings for all workers in Bristol TN and VA show the largest gains in a comparison of the 2007-2011 and 2012-2016 estimates. Kingsport and Greeneville show a loss in median household income.

Female full-time workers in Bristol VA and Johnson City posted double-digit earnings gains and did well in other cities with the exception of Kingsport and Greeneville.

Median earnings for workers posted the best gains in Bristol TN and VA. Greeneville was the only city with median worker earnings loss.

Male full-time workers in each city except Johnson City and Elizabethton saw their median earnings increase.

Time for a reminder. Remember the one-year estimates give a more accurate look at current conditions. The multi-year estimates show conditions over a time frame. There multiple reports on the 2016 one-year components on this site.

One multi-year dataset of particular interest is the median household incomes compared to the mean – or average – household incomes. The gap between them points to shifts in the share of households by income ranges. The average household income is a good description of how incomes are distributed across an entire community while the median marks the point where half of the households have a higher income, and half have a lower income.

Here’s a snapshot of the household income and wage comparisons of the 2012-2016 aggerate data to the 2007-2011 data.


Bristol, TN – $38,895 up 10.4%.

Bristol, VA – $35,801, up 11.5%.

Elizabethton – $30,649, up 7.2%

Greeneville – $30,671, down 9.8%.

Johnson City – $40,370, up 8.3%.

Kingsport – $39,463, down 1.1%.


Bristol, TN – $53,799, up 7.7%.

Bristol, VA – $49,227, up 15.6%.

Elizabethton – $46,728, up 13.7%.

Greeneville – $46,175, down 0.6%.

Johnson City-  $65,381, up 9.5%.

Kingsport – $60,143, up 8.5%.


Bristol, TN – $25,623, up 9.9%.

Bristol, VA – $24,413, up 5.2%.

Elizabethton – $20,458, up 6.3%.

Greeneville – $23,854, down 1.2%%.

Johnson City – $22,745, up 4%.

Kingsport – $26,338, up 1.5%.


Bristol, TN – $40,728, up 9.5%.

Bristol, VA – $39,511, up 23.5%.

Elizabethton – $29,545, down 13.8%.

Greeneville – $35,210, up 0.4%.

Johnson City – $44,208, down 0.7%.

Kingsport – $42,943, up 3.9%.


Bristol, TN – $30,433 – up 7.8%.

Bristol, VA – $35,249 – up 22.9%.

Elizabethton – $29,132, up 3.1%.

Greeneville – $33,412, down 3.5%.

Johnson City – $35,998, up 13.5%.

Kingsport – $33,563, down 3.1%.