Why Midland is the Second-Richest City in the Country

MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Oil workers on a rig in Midland County,Texas.

Yes, Midland is the second-weatlhiest metro area in the country (measuring personal income per capita in 2011), according to new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Over on the East Coast, though, that ranking raised some eyebrows. That’s where The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson was at first surprised to see Midland ahead of Washington, DC and San Francisco.

But for Texans, this news may not come as that big of a surprise.

Midland has been home to several oil booms, one of which went bust in a big way in the mid-eighties. This latest boom, thanks in large part to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) drilling technology, is well under way. In Odessa, personal income rose 14.8 percent last year. As we reported earlier this year, there aren’t enough homes to house all the oilfield workers. Midland has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, and sales at the local BMW dealership are up 50 percent from two years ago. 

“It’s boom times in the Permian Basin, the petroleum-rich swath of western Texas, where unemployment in Midland is 3% and one-quarter of the labor force works in mining,” Thompson notes. “The small city and its big wages are at the mercy of their natural resources and the globally-determined price of energy.”

And the high personal income isn’t limited to Midland. Across Texas, most of the major metropolitan areas are listed in the highest quintile for personal income growth during 2011.

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