Feb 15, 2024 - News

High debt, low incomes: How Tampa Bay's economy compares to other regions

Illustration of a percent sign with oranges instead of circles.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Tampa Bay households have the highest debt-to-income ratio when compared to similar regions, even as incomes have risen in recent years.

  • That's according to this year's Tampa Bay E-Insights report assessing the state of our local economy compared to 19 metropolitan areas that, per the report, "reflect both peer and aspirational relationships" with Tampa Bay.

Why it matters: The analysis puts data to the financial strain that many Tampa Bay families have experienced over the last decade while facing rising housing costs and inflation.

Meanwhile, the region snagged the top spot for domestic migration, signaling that it's still seen as a desirable place to live. And the cost of living remains comparatively low.

  • The assessment defines the region as eight counties: Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota.

Here are more takeaways from the report, which was issued this week by the University of South Florida Muma College of Business and the Tampa Bay Partnership:

Income: Tampa Bay's household debt relative to income fell slightly from 2021 to 2022, the most recent year for which data was available. But it was still ranked highest, with San Diego trailing in second.

  • Our per capita income increased from 2016 to 2022, but still ranks near the bottom compared to the other cities studied. Only San Antonio and Orlando ranked lower.
  • Tampa Bay also ranks near the bottom for income inequality, which rose from 2019 to 2022.

Housing: Rents increased by 72% between 2015 and 2023, leaving Tampa Bay in 15th place in affordability. Only Denver, Orlando, Seattle, Miami and San Diego were more expensive.

  • Home values increased by nearly 126% between 2015 and 2023.

Yes, but: That increase comes at a cost. The region dipped from second in 2020 to fourth last year for homeownership affordability.

Health care: Medicare spending per capita has increased each year to nearly $12,000 in 2021, the fifth highest cost behind Dallas, Houston, Miami and Orlando.

And more: Commutes are getting longer, leaving Tampa Bay ranked in the bottom half for residents who spend more than 30 minutes getting to and from work.

  • It's relatively cheap here to join a gym or rent a tennis court, but movie tickets are on the more expensive side.
  • Our graduate tuition is the most affordable, but our undergraduate tuition has climbed in recent years, leaving Tampa Bay in 12th place for affordability in 2022.
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