Gilbert Boasts the Nation's Highest Median Income for Hispanics

Of the 150 largest cities in the nation, the one with the highest median income for Hispanics is Gilbert, Arizona. That’s according to a recent analysis by WalletHub.

The personal-finance website found that when adjusted for cost of living, the median income for Hispanics in Gilbert is four times higher than the figure for Hispanics in lowest-ranking New York City.

Two other Arizona cities ranked high on WalletHub's list: Scottsdale, at number 3; and Chandler, at number 5.

Jennifer Graves, economic-development manager for the Gilbert Office of Real Estate and Economic Development, said she believes Hispanics are benefiting from the city’s growth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations, which often pay higher wages. The health-care industry, too, has brought a significant number of well-paying jobs to Gilbert, she said.

“We really feel that has contributed to Gilbert’s overall higher level of medium household income,” Graves told New Times.

Nearly 35,000 of the estimated 223,000 residents in Gilbert — or more than 15 percent — are Hispanic, according to U.S. Census data.

Not surprisingly, the city also ranks high on WalletHub’s list of best cities for Hispanic entrepreneurs, coming in at number 23. Scottsdale, the second-highest-ranked Arizona city on the list, landed just behind, at number 24. Chandler, Peoria, and Tempe ranked lower. Arizona cities with larger Hispanic populations — among them Tucson, Mesa, Phoenix, and Glendale — didn’t crack the top 100.

WalletHub used 19 metrics to rank the best cities for Hispanic entrepreneurs, including median annual income earned by Hispanics, the percentage of Hispanics with at least a bachelor’s degree, and the Hispanic entrepreneurship rate.

Graves said the median annual income for Hispanics living in Gilbert could be one of the factors that gave the city an edge in the ranking. Another factor could be the city’s efforts to help entrepreneurs start and grow their own businesses, she said.

Graves noted that Gilbert, in partnership with Arizona State University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Department, recently launched a workspace to provide resources for entrepreneurs. The workspace is located in the Southeast Regional Library.

“We really put a big emphasis on entrepreneurship and small-business growth,” she said.

James Garcia, a spokesperson for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told New Times it doesn’t surprise him that Gilbert and Scottsdale rank among the top cities for Hispanic entrepreneurs, considering the metrics used. Both cities have some of the highest median incomes and education-attainment levels in the state, while other cities with larger Hispanic populations, such as Phoenix, have some of the lowest.

But WalletHub’s analysis doesn’t tell the whole story, Garcia argues. There has been a significant growth in the number of Hispanic entrepreneurs who’ve started their own businesses in Arizona over the past few years despite the recent recession, he points out.

According to a report by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew from 52,667 in 2007 to 89,673 in 2012 — a 70 percent increase. During that period, the total number of businesses statewide grew by only 2 percent.

Based on the trend, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimates there are now more than 123,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in the state, more than half of which are owned by Hispanic women.

Garcia noted that even though the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in Arizona has soared, they bring in considerably less money than businesses owned by non-Hispanics. The average annual earnings for Hispanic-owned businesses are about $100,000, while non-Hispanic businesses make about $500,000 a year.

The fact that Hispanics continue to fall behind when it comes to higher education probably helps to explain the earnings gap.

“If Hispanics get into entrepreneurship and they don’t have high education-attainment levels, they’re probably going to start businesses that are much further down the list in terms of the ability to earn substantial income,” Garcia said.

Garcia added he would like to see Hispanics have more access to capital that could help them start and grow their businesses. There hasn’t been “any substantial effort” to do that, he argued, even as the number of Hispanic-owned businesses has doubled.

“You might think those who have the wherewithal to provide that capital — whether it’s the government or it’s private banks — might say to themselves, ‘Maybe this is a community we should invest in,’ but they’re not doing it,” he said.
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