Rent vs. Income

See how dramatically Austin rents and incomes have changed since 1980

See how dramatically Austin rents and incomes have changed since 1980

Austin aerial view downtown skyline
Surprisingly, rents and incomes are growing at the same rate. Austin, Texas - Your City Government/Facebook

Rents are rising in Austin, but are incomes keeping up? Surprisingly, yes, according to a new national study. 

Apartment List analyzed U.S. Census data from 1960-2014 and found that inflation-adjusted rents have risen by 64 percent nationally, but real household incomes only increased by 19 percent.

During the particularly grim first decade of the 21st century, household incomes actually fell by 9 percent, while rents rose by 18 percent. For the total duration of the study, cost-burdened renters nationwide more than doubled, from 24 percent in 1960 to 49 percent in 2014.

"The U.S. renter population is larger than it has ever been (43 million households, or 37 percent of the total population), and nearly half of them are struggling to pay rent," writes Apartment List's director of data science and growth, Andrew Woo.

Austin, however, bucks the trend in the South and Midwest, where rent is up and income is either stagnant or down. Rent and income have risen significantly in the Capital City; both are about 40 percent from where they were in 1980. While rent may be a pricey $1,092 now compared to only $761 then, renters are bringing home $43,634 versus $30,227.

Apartment List points out that while Austin's population has more than doubled since 1980, the city's strong employment growth and attractiveness to millennials have given it the most impressive boost in the country. 

Elsewhere in Texas, the scenario mimics the regional trend. In Dallas, incomes were rising steadily until about 2003, when they took a sudden dip and have struggled to recover ever since. Since 1980, rents have increased about 25 percent, from $761 to $948. The median income for renters right now is $38,406, just slightly above the $37,237 it was in 1980.

The numbers are depressing in Houston, too, where rent is up nearly 20 percent ($807 to $940) but income is actually down about 10 percent. A renter would have made about $42,225 in 1980, but now they make only $38,447.