Since becoming New To Seattle last year, I get peppered by friends across the country with all kinds of questions about my new city of habitual abode. Many of them seek quantitative answers. How big? How diverse? How rich? How expensive? How wet? How liberal? And the one I hear the most: What’s the real estate market like?
I even ask myself some of these questions.
So I thought I’d pull together some numbers for all to ponder. Much the information here comes from city-data.com, a commercial website that aggregates information from a variety of other sources. I can’t guarantee perfect accuracy, and some of the data sets seem to be a little old. Still, over the years I have found city-data.com to be, as the saying goes, good enough for government work.
Seattle’s population (as of 2010) is 608,660, an 8% increase over a decade. It is almost evenly divided between the sexes; there are just 600 more females than males. Racially, the breakdown is 66% white, 14% Asian, 8% black, 7% Hispanic and 4% mixed race. Typical of the West, American Indians account for just 0.6% of the population. That’s down from the 100% they enjoyed before Arthur Denny and his followers arrived from Illinois in 1851 and started claiming land without paying for it. (The city’s name is a derivation of the head chief at the time.)
Despite a widely held perception of Norwegian influence, less than 6% of the population claims that ancestry. That’s outnumbered by Germans (15%), Irish (12%) and English (11%). But not much of any of that is first-generation; even though Seattle has a long tradition of trade and transit, 84% of its population was born in the U.S. Most of the foreign-born hail from Asia.
Nearly half the adult population–47%–has at least one college degree. About 10% of residents have an advance degree, ranking Seattle No. 72 among larger cities. That may be why Seattle ranks No. 81th among larger cities in the percentage of residents attending college (12%)
When it comes to organized religion, Seattle is a pretty God-less place. The percentage of the population affiliated with a religious congregation is just 37%, compared with a national average of 50%. Of those with a connection, Catholics account for 43%, LDS (Mormon) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 6% each; Presbyterian Church USA and Assemblies of God, 4% each. The Jewish population seems very, very small.
On the crime front, city-data.com figures that Seattle lawlessness is about 25% above the national average, although my reading of the numbers suggests much of that is due to crimes against property (burglary, car theft, etc.) rather than people (assault, murder, etc.). One out of every 836 residents is a registered sex offender.
Seattle is a pretty crowded place, with 7,257 people for each of its 84 square miles. Put another way, that’s one person for each 62-foot square of land.
Economically, Seattle finds itself in an interesting position. The Milken Institute figures the job and economic growth record is 27th best among larger metropolitan areas. Yet the unemployment rate is 8.3%, somewhat above the national average of 8.1%. Seattle median household income (2009 numbers) is $60,843. That’s 17% above the national average. But the cost of living is also 17% above the national average. So there’s not much of a free ride. Some 11% of the population lives in poverty.
As for the famous Seattle rain, the official annual precipitation amount is 37 inches. That’s less than New York City’s 43 inches and Houston’s 48 inches.However, it rarely pours (except, it seems, when I referee youth soccer) but is more what we used to call on the East Coast “spitting”–albeit for hours at a time. Fortunately, thanks to shielding mountains in most directions, the winters tend to be warmer than the northern latitude might suggest, and the summers cooler than the season might suggest. Seattle remains the country’s cloudiest major city, with 226 “days of heavy cloud” every year.
President Barack Obama is coming here later this week for his second round of fundraising in less than three months. That would not be surprising. In 2008 he received 71% of the vote in King County, where Seattle is located; John McCain took just 28%. Jim McDermott, who represents most of Seattle in the U.S. House of Representatives, has been called “the most liberal member of Congress.”
Everyone asks me about the Seattle real estate market. I’d say it’s still stinks–at least if you already own property. The value imparted is still minimal (according to city-data.com, the average Seattle home has less than five rooms). Last month, the median house in Seattle sold for $425,000, up 10% in a year after a crippling decline over the previous four. However, the supply of homes for sale was so small–underwater owners don’t want to take a loss–that I’m not sure those statistics represents much.
My favorite local blog is Seattle Bubble. Believe me, it doesn’t cover the entertainment scene.