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‘US Median Rent to Reach $2000’ in 2022

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"The avg rent is $2000 and we’re supposed to make 3x the rent which is $6000, which is $72,000 …… the avg salary in U.S is $51,000 …… y’all seeing the issue?"

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Amid an ongoing national discourse around average wages and a skyrocketing cost of living, a popular May 31 2022 tweet claiming that the median rent in the United States reached $2000 also spread in threads on Reddit and Imgur as part of a broader discussion:

In the tweet, user @BrotherMan24_ stated that the average American renter was paying $2000 per month, but Reddit and Imgur titles typically framed the figure as near-future, not current. The tweet also referenced a common requirement that tenants earn “3x the rent,” or $6000 per month.

Noting that a $6000 monthly salary worked out to $72,000 annually, @BrotherMan24_ added that the average salary in the United States was $51,000 annually. In subsequent tweets, he linked to CNN and described the figures as “unsustainable,” and expressed approval that the popular tweet was his most popular:

May 2022 News About the $2000 Average Rent Figures

The CNN article linked above was published on May 19 2022 with the headline, “Rents in the US just hit another record high.” It cited Realtor.com figures from April 2022, reporting that a $2000 median rent could be exceeded by August 2022, and adding that the issue was more pronounced in some cities than others:

Rents in the US climbed to a new record high again in April [2022], and they are expected to keep rising.

The national median rent was $1,827 a month in April [2022], up 16.7% from a year ago, according to a report from Realtor.com. Rent has been steadily increasing since early [2021]. If recent trends continue, the report projects the typical rent could be more than $2,000 a month by August [2022].

[…]

There are some signs the pace of rent increases is starting to slow. April [2022] marks the third consecutive month in which annual rent growth has slowed from the peak in January [2022]. Still, while annual price growth dropped slightly from March [2022] — when rents climbed 17% year-over-year — last month’s increase was significant.

And some cities saw rent increases that were even more jaw dropping. Miami saw the fastest growth in April [2022], with the median rental price spiking 52% to $2,800. That’s $950 more than it was a year ago.

On May 26 2022, KRON published a similar article, also citing data from Realtor.com, and added that averages prices ranged from $1499 for a studio to $2552 for a two-bedroom apartment or house:

Think that rent can’t get any higher? Well, think again.

Rent in the U.S. reached an all-time median high in April 2022 and is only expected to keep rising to a record average of $2,000 per rental unit by August [2022], according to a recent report from Realtor.com[.]

New data reveals the current national average rent is $1,827 a month, up 16.7% from a year ago. The data also broke down the average rent by the number of bedrooms, determining that the price for a studio apartment is growing the fastest of all rental units. In the U.S., a studio will cost you $1,499 each month — another record high — with the average two-bedroom will cost you around $2,552 per month.

Realtor.com’s April 2022 Rental Report

News coverage reflecting the details of the tweet was based on a May 19 2022 report by Realtor.com economic researchers Joel Berner and Danielle Hale, specifically covering housing market conditions in April 2022. The report was concise, featured charts, and read in part:

One possible signal of relief from this surge can be found by tracking year-over-year rent growth. April [2022]’s rents were up 16.7% from April 2021. This marks the third consecutive month in which year-over-year rent growth has slowed, albeit modestly, from the 17.1% peak this January [2022]. Still, this level of rent increase is severe. If annual rent growth were to remain around 17% through the summer, the national median rent would eclipse $2,000 this August [2022].

Studio unit rents increased at the fastest pace again this month, growing 17.2% from April 2021 compared to 15.9% for 2-bedroom units and 15.6% for 1-bedroom units. Studios have seen the most year-over-year rent growth every month so far this year, rebounding later than larger rentals from the price decreases in late 2021 and early 2021. 1- and 2-bedroom rents both decreased in year-over-year growth from March into April [2022], driving the general slowdown. Studio apartments are less costly and generally attract renters with more flexible living arrangements, so they were more easily vacated early in the pandemic and are now in higher demand for those looking to move into their own place or to return to major city centers. Studio rents in New York City (29.1%), Los Angeles (23.2%), and Chicago (21.5%) all grew at a faster year-over-year rate than the national average.

One section of the report provided median rents for 49 metropolitan areas in the United States in April 2022. About 20 percent of those areas had already exceeded a median rent of $2000, with four — Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose — exceeding $3000 per month.

Rental data for March 2022 was analyzed and published on April 14 2022, suggesting that an analysis for May 2022 would be published in mid-June 2022. Data for current average median rent lagged by about six weeks via Realtor.com reports, and roughly one in five of the metro areas listed in the report had rents averaging over $3000 per month.

Does ‘Median’ Mean ‘Average’?

A helpful blurb from Khan Academy explained the “median” (as in “median rent”) as follows:

The mean (average) of a data set is found by adding all numbers in the data set and then dividing by the number of values in the set. The median is the middle value when a data set is ordered from least to greatest. The mode is the number that occurs most often in a data set.

Realtor.com’s April 2022 Rental Report included a “Methodology” section, providing further detail on the manner by which they calculated national median rents:

Rental data as of April [2022] for units advertised as for-rent on Realtor.com®. Rental units include apartment communities as well as private rentals (condos, townhomes, single-family homes). All units were studio, 1-bedroom, or 2-bedroom units. We use communities that reliably report data each month within the top 50 largest metropolitan areas. National rents were calculated by averaging the medians of the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Realtor.com® began publishing regular monthly rental trends reports in October 2020 with data history stretching back to March 2019.

Note: With the release of its February 2022 rent report, Realtor.com® incorporated a new and improved methodology for capturing and reporting rental listing trends and metrics. The new methodology is expected to yield a cleaner and more consistent measurement of rental listings and trends at both the national and local level. The methodology has been adjusted to better account for cases where new or missing data may not be completely at random. Most areas across the country will see minor changes with a smaller handful of areas seeing larger updates. As a result of these changes, the rental data released since March 2022 will not be directly comparable with previous releases (files downloaded before March 2022) and Realtor.com® economics blog posts. However, future data releases, including historical data, will consistently apply the new methodology.

The Average Salary in the United States in 2022

As indicated above, data often lagged for figures like average American salaries, and sources like the United States Census and Social Security Administration referenced figures from 2019 or 2020 in 2022.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS, PDF] report for the first quarter of 2022 identified demographic disparities in wage averages in a “highlights” section:

Median weekly earnings of full-time workers were $1,037 in the first quarter of 2022. Women had median weekly earnings of $939, or 83.2 percent of the $1,128 median for men. (See table 2.)

The women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio varied by race and ethnicity. White women earned 83.1 percent as much as their male counterparts, compared with 93.2 percent for Black women, 85.2 percent for Asian women, and 84.5 percent for Hispanic women.

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, median weekly earnings of Blacks ($840) and Hispanics ($799) working full-time jobs were lower than those of Whites ($1,064) and Asians ($1,362). By sex, median weekly earnings for Black men were $870, or 75.8 percent of the median for White men ($1,148). Median earnings for Hispanic men were $866, or 75.4 percent of the median for White men. The difference was less among women, as Black women’s median earnings were $811, or 85.0 percent of those for White women ($954), and earnings for Hispanic women were $732, or 76.7 percent of those for White women. Earnings of Asian men ($1,452) and women ($1,237) were higher than those of their White counterparts.

Using the proportions of the tweet, the median weekly earnings for a full-time worker in the first quarter of 2022 was $1037. Extrapolating that to the 52 weeks in a year returned a figure of $53,924, but anyone looking up “average salary in the US” would likely encounter the $51,000 figure in the first few results (with a reasonably recent date of December 29 2021, the quarter immediately prior to the BLS figures for Q1 2022):

average salary in the US

Summary

A viral May 2022 tweet was shared to Reddit and Imgur with the title “U.S. median rent to reach record high of $2000 by summer.” In it, user @BrotherMan24_ observed that the average “rent is $2000,” tenants were expected to earn “3x the rent which is $6000, [or] $72,000 [a year],” and that the average “salary in U.S is $51,000.” Although @BrotherMan24_’s figures appeared to have been rounded up or down to be even, those observations were, indeed, broadly accurate.

Economic analysts for Realtor.com measured a national median (not average) monthly rent of $1827 — not far off from $2000, and not representative of large, populous cities where median rents already exceeded $2000 or $3000 in April 2022. Likewise, the BLS Q1 2022 median earnings extrapolated to a slightly higher $53,924 — unless an individual was a Black man ($43,680), a Latino man ($41,548), a white woman ($49,608), or a Black woman ($42,172).

With respect to veracity, the “median rent” of $1,827 was not only functionally close and reasonably rounded up to $2000, it also didn’t reflect rents in highly populated large cities (or smaller ones, like Providence, Rhode Island). Likewise, the median weekly income worked out to a bit under $54,000, but it was markedly lower for people of color and women. The tweets figures were in line with ones from sources like BLS and Realtor.com’s economics, its proportions were fairly approximated, and lagging base figures often represented data from the most recent month or quarter.