10 Cities Filled With People Already Making America Great

Richard from "Silicon Valley" finds a productivity streak on his laptop

Richard from Silicon Valley finds a productivity streak — like many others in his city. | HBO

If there’s a concept that’s undeniably American, it’s that you should pull your own weight. You know, cover your bases, be self-sufficient, and take care of yourself and your family. This can manifest in a number of ways, but it usually boils down to being responsible. Part of that responsibility? Doing a good job and producing for your employer. Although productivity is usually boiled down to a simple number these days, there’s a lot more to it.

A lot of people take immense pride in their levels of productivity. We look up to the most productive members of society, be they athletes, tech titans, or a politician who manages to get a bill passed. Productivity is good; productivity is a virtue.

And those who are the most productive tend to cluster in certain areas. Although hard work and innovation aren’t values bred only in certain areas or people, there are different parts of the country that outperform the rest. And that can be attractive to like-minded people, compounding productivity levels. So, where are those areas? In which cities are workers producing like crazy?

A report from the Brookings Institution ranks them for us. The report looks at the 382 metro areas in the United States and their corresponding levels of productivity. While there are many factors that can ultimately determine how robust a local economy is, the report looked at annual per-worker output (in dollars) and the average productivity growth rate since the late 1970s.

Using that as a starting point, here are the 10 most productive cities in the country.

10. Oxnard, California

A sunset over Oxnard

A sunset over Oxnard | City of Oxnard via Facebook

Per the Brookings report, the Oxnard area is the 10th most productive part of the country. This includes more than just the city of Oxnard. It also throws in Thousand Oaks and Ventura, two neighboring cities. The annual labor productivity growth rate in the Oxnard region between 1978 and 2015 was 1.52%. And labor productivity, in sheer dollar amount in 2015, was $132,343.

9. San Diego

San Diego, California

San Diego | iStock.com

Brookings throws San Diego in with Carlsbad for the sake of the report. These two cities together are the ninth most productive region in the United States. In 2015, labor productivity per worker was $132,959. The labor productivity growth between 1978 and 2015 was 1.33%. This list is dense with California cities, and San Diego is only one example of a large metro area pulling its weight in terms of sheer productivity.

8. Seattle

A sunset on the Seattle waterfront

A sunset on the Seattle waterfront | Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The folks in the Seattle area have been busy. The area is home to several large companies, many of which are changing the way we live. Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks — they all call Seattle home, as do many others. And productivity in Seattle has been off the charts. Brookings says workers in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region produced $138,743 per head in 2015, and the annual productivity growth rate was 1.06% between 1978 and 2015.

7. New York City

New York City, New York

New York City | iStock.com

If a city never sleeps, does that mean it’s always working? It might seem so. The New York-Newark-Jersey City area is extremely productive, with labor productivity averaging $147,527 per worker in 2015. The annual productivity growth rate, from 1978 to 2015, was 1.3%. While some bigger cities have seen their work forces decay and move away, New York remains an economic powerhouse.

6. Hartford, Connecticut

The grounds at the Connecticut capitol in Hartford

The grounds at the Connecticut capitol in Hartford | Bob Falcetti/Getty Images

Hartford might have lost the Whalers all those years ago, but it hasn’t stopped the city’s populace from busting their collective butts. Brookings encapsulates Hartford, West Hartford, and East Hartford into one metro area, and together, they rank as the sixth most productive area in the country. Per worker, labor productivity reached $148,361 in 2015, and the average growth rate has been 1.71%.

5. Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles | David McNew/Getty Images

Everybody seems to want to move to Los Angeles — well, New York or Los Angeles. And that interest keeps those cities (the nation’s two largest) humming. The Los Angeles-Anaheim-Long Beach metro area, which is home to millions, is one of the country’s most productive, along with one of its most populated. Per-worker productivity, in 2015, was more than $149,000.

4. Stamford, Connecticut

Downtown Stamford

Downtown Stamford | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It’s not just the folks in Hartford who are getting things done. The Stamford-Bridgeport-Norwalk region is also one of the country’s productivity hotbeds. Although the area has experienced some economic turbulence over the past several years, workers are still producing at a high rate. Labor productivity averaged $151,618 in 2015, and the average growth rate from 1978 to 2015 was 1.9%.

3. San Francisco

A solar-powered plane flies over San Francisco

A solar-powered plane flies over San Francisco. | Jean Revillard/Getty Images

This should come as no surprise. San Francisco has been blowing up, in terms of productivity, as much as any other city in the country. Labor productivity in 2015 was $152,562 per worker, and the average annual growth rate from 1978 to 2015 was 1.38%. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, per the Brookings report, is only outclassed by two other areas — one of them right down the road.

2. Houston

The Houston skyline on a summer day

The Houston skyline | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Texas is a giant state that produces a lot of value. The state’s largest city, Houston, outclasses all others in terms of sheer productivity. On an individual basis, the average Houston worker produced almost $157,000 worth of goods and services in 2015. Annual productivity growth, however, hasn’t been great in the Houston-Sugar Land-The Woodlands. That rate, from 1978 to 2015, was only 0.87%.

1. San Jose, California

A view of the historic Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, California

A view of the historic Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, California | iStock.com/GerardoBrucker

The country’s most productive area? Silicon Valley. The average worker in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro region produced a whopping $173,971 in 2015. And that’s not to be outshone by the annual labor productivity growth rate, which has been a whopping 2.72% from 1978 to 2015. When you crunch the numbers, no area in the country is delivering more bang for the buck than Silicon Valley.

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