February 8 2017

How a Tech Job Salary in Albany Beats Ones in San Francisco or NYC

Compared to smaller metros, big cities typically have bigger paychecks, especially when it comes to tech jobs. But bigger is not necessarily better – or more – in terms of buying power. This is something that professionals in tech fields should keep in mind when they are considering whether to work in large tech hubs, such as San Francisco or New York City, or small tech hubs, such as New York’s Capital Region.

With U.S. News & World Reports naming Albany the nation’s third best place to find a job in technology – right behind San Francisco – some tech workers are probably weighing the pros and cons of these regions. WalletHub recently reinforced Forbes’ findings by naming the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan statistical area (MSA) the nation’s 15th best place for STEM professionals.

Home Price-to-Income

One way to assess how much more or less affordable one metro is than another is by comparing their home price-to-income (HPI) ratios. The HPI is a ratio of an MSA’s median home value divided by its median household income. The higher the HPI, the less affordable a housing market becomes.



Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA

New York-Newark-Jersey City MSA

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward MSA

Median Home Price





Median Household Income










Home Price-to-Income (HPI)









MSA vs. Albany HPI









Based on U.S. Census Bureau five-year estimates (2011-2015), which are listed in CEG’s updated Capital Region Economic Profile, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA has an HPI of 3.17. That is 4.6 percent below the national ratio and 87 percent and 138.7 percent below those for the New York-Newark-Jersey City and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward MSAs, respectively.

Cost of Living Index

The Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index (COLI) weighs the costs of various items in cities nationwide. In each of the categories, such as groceries, housing, and utilities, a reading of 100 is the average for all participating areas. Albany’s 2015 cost of living index (COLI) for housing was 122.8, compared to 290.5 for Brooklyn and 319.4 for San Francisco. The COLI disparities were not as great between the metros for grocery items, but at 109.9 for Albany, 133.7 for Brooklyn and 127.9 for San Francisco, they were still significant.

Home Buying Power of Metros Tech Salaries

New York City’s and San Francisco’s HPIs and median home prices are far greater than those for Albany – more than double in most cases. While those larger metros may pay their software and biotechnology workers more than those in the Albany metro area, the differences between median salaries in these fields are not as great.

As the below table illustrates, the median salary of a web developer in the Albany-Troy-Schenectady MSA would cover 29.7 of a home in that area at the median value. In contrast, the median salaries of web developers in the New York-Newark-Jersey City and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward MSAs would only cover 19.1 percent and 15.2 percent of homes in those metros at their median values, respectively.

Tax Considerations

Just as bigger is not necessarily more, lower is not necessarily less, especially when it comes to tech hub taxes. When a large tech hub’s real estate market is three times more expensive than a small tech hub’s market — as in the case with San Francisco and Albany, respectively — buyers in the former will end up paying more in property taxes even though it has a lower property tax rate. For example, San Francisco County has a low average property tax rate (0.683 percent), but when that is applied to the median home value ($799,600), the property tax total comes to $5,461, according to SmartAsset.com‘s tax calculator and U.S. Census Bureau five-year housing estimates. In contrast, Albany County has a higher average property tax rate (1.997 percent), but when that is applied to the median home value ($208,400), the property tax total comes to $4,162. Do the same thing in Seattle’s King County and the property tax total comes to $3,939, only $223 less than Albany County’s. As for state income tax, California’s is higher than New York’s (9.3 percent vs. 6.45 percent for a single web developer at the median salary in those metros). Washington state does not have an income tax, but tech workers there will find themselves paying more in sales tax, which is 18.6 percent higher in Seattle (9.5 percent combined local and state) than in Albany (8 percent combined).

Get More in the Capital Region


Pay is just one factor that workers should take under consideration when weighing where they should live and work. As Forbes’ and WalletHub’s rankings illustrate, the Capital Region offers many employment opportunities to skilled workers in the software and other STEM fields. However, the region also has world-class performance venues, 21 higher education institutions, a thriving arts scene and global culture and dining. And even more cultural and recreational experiences are close by in the neighboring Catskills, Berkshires and Adirondacks.

One way or another, technology workers who remain in or locate to the Capital Region are getting more.


For more information, contact CEG Director of Research and Communications James Schlett at jamess@ceg.org. Don’t miss these insights into the trends that are shaping the Capital Region’s economy. Sign up for CEG’s e-news.

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