For most of the 20th century, Los Angeles was one of America’s top economic success stories. From 1910 to 1970, as greater L.A. multiplied its population 21 times, it fostered high-quality growth, zooming up the ranks of income per inhabitant to become America’s fourth-ranked metropolitan area. It was at the center of the core technology industries of the moment: movies and aerospace.
Its regional rival was its northern neighbor, San Francisco, where trucking and transportation, communications equipment and corporate and banking headquarters put Bay Area residents even higher on the income scale: No. 1 in 1970.
For decades, though, the differences between No. 1 and No. 4 were minor. California’s two big-city regions were a pair of economic miracles.
Today, the five-county Los Angeles region is ranked 25th on the income scale, while the 10-county Bay Area region remains No. 1. Per capita, workers in the Bay Area make 30% more than those in greater Los Angeles. That’s almost as great a difference as divides high-income and middle-income countries.
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