Where are Delaware’s high earners, and what does it say about the state’s economic development?
A salary of $200,000 annually is the threshold required to become an accredited angel investor. Accordingly, it’s the number Technical.ly used as the minimum salary to qualify as a high earner when we took a look at data behind the folks making the high-end of salaries in Delaware as part of a reporting series on tech careers and mobility.
Check out out first feature on ownership, equity and the Black wealth gap, and see our data journalist’s methodology on GitHub.
Of course, how wealthy a $200,000 annual salary makes you depends on cost of living. Delaware’s cost of living has a reputation for being relatively low, though according to the World Population Review’s 2021 Cost of Living Index, it’s about 8% higher than than the national average. That’s far lower than nearby DC, which is 61% higher than the average (the second highest in the US after Hawaii) and New York at 34%.
Wilmington, where, along with Newark, most high-paying jobs are located in Delaware, has very close to the same cost of living as Technical.ly sister markets Philadelphia and Baltimore, according to NerdWallet’s cost of living calculator. Our newest market, Pittsburgh, is about 10% lower, which tracks: The coasts, especially the Northeast, have higher costs of living than areas in the middle of the country.
Overall, $200,000 goes a long way in Delaware, where houses — even after a 21% spike since this time in 2020 — average around $345,000.
Technology has long been a source of high-earning jobs in Delaware, though historically it’s been more the chemical engineering space than what we often think of as “tech” today. Tech in Delaware has evolved over the last decade, with the rise in fintech, cybersecurity and medtech.
Tech’s share of top earners in Delaware, as we would expect to see, changed from 2009 to 2019. As part of Technical.ly’s reporting series on high earners, tech careers and mobility, we sourced information about the industries that produce the most high earners over this decade, which tells its own story.
Here are Delaware’s top industries for earners over $200,000 in 2009:
The top three — medical offices, legal services and banking — are pretty much what you would expect in 2009. A few years earlier, while MBNA was still ruling Wilmington, we’d have been surprised if banking wasn’t at the top, but 2009 was during that post-MBNA period when ING Direct was the big deal company in town, but only three years from being absorbed into Capital One. Today, CapOne, M&T Bank, JPMorgan Chase and our own WSFS are among the big high-paying employers in New Castle County, and many of those high paying jobs are tech jobs. Not so much in 2009.
Possibly more surprising is that pharmaceuticals, long a major industry in Delaware, was only at #10 in 2009. It, too, was just a couple of years from mass layoffs at AstraZeneca that would alter the industry in the state. Also, chemical manufacturing was at #8 six years before the DuPont Dow merger that eliminated jobs and changed the face of Delaware.
Note that there’s no tech-specific industry listed here.
In contrast, here are Delaware’s top industries for earners over $200,000 in 2019:
Doctor offices are still at the top (with hospitals at #4) — not a surprise, as ChristianaCare is the second largest employer in Delaware after the state itself. But now we are seeing science and technology consulting, which didn’t make the top 10 in 2009, all the way up to #2. Could this be related to the 2015 Dow merger, after which many of the experienced engineers who lost jobs at DuPont went into consulting rather than go the traditional employment route, and were able to earn a lot doing it?
Banking, which is now, unlike in 2009, a tech field, is at #5. That’s lower than its #3 spot in 2009, but then again, Wilmington is less squarely a “banking town” than it was in the ING era.
Interestingly, chemical manufacturing is in the exact same spot, #8, as it was in ’09 pre-Dupont-Dow merger that changed the face of Delaware. Yes, the Dow merger was undone in 2019 and DuPont and spinoff Chemours are major players. But also, DuPont’s famous campuses such as Barley Mill, which will soon be the site of a new Wegmans supermarket, and Chestnut Run are becoming less and less part of the DuPont company. On the other hand, DuPont’s Experimental Station, home to the Delaware Innovation Space, is helping to launch startups in the industry. All of this could have contributed to the even-steven rate of high-earning jobs.
At #10 we have computer systems design, which did not make the top 10 in 2009. It will be interesting to see where this category sits in 2029, but it’s no surprise to see it rising.
Off the top 10 is pharmaceuticals, though it wouldn’t be strange to see it return with moves like the recent expansion of Incyte.
Anything surprising to you from this data? Let us know so we can explore if for a future story: firstname.lastname@example.org.-30-