Changing Bellevue increasingly wealthy and diverse, census data shows

Bellevue is a city in motion, according to data gathered by the U.S. Census in its yearly American Community Survey.

Bellevue is a city in motion, according to data gathered by the U.S. Census in its yearly American Community Survey.

With an estimated population of 139, 814, Bellevue remained the fifth largest city in the state in 2015, behind Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Vancouver. The city had a population of 122,363 in the 2010 census.

Where the city has changed most is in its residents’ origins, bank accounts and race. Namely, Bellevue’s population is increasingly foreign-born, non-white and wealthy.

The U.S. Census’s American Community Survey collects yearly data on cites and townships with a population of more than 65,000. In Washington, that means the Census bureau collected data on 17 cities.

The median Bellevue household now makes $98,804 a year, a climb of $3,658 from the 2014 data. Close to 19 percent of Bellevue’s 56,937 households bring in more than $200,000 every year.

In Bellevue, continuing a trend established decades ago, more people work in the city than live here, quashing the “bedroom community” moniker. The number of jobs between 1995 and 2014 grew by 1.8 percent annually.

Even so, the median household in Kirkland surpassed Bellevue last year, with the average household to the north bringing in $102,420.

The demographics of the city are changing as well. In 1990, 87 percent of Bellevue residents had been born in the United States. In 2015, that number fell to 61 percent.

According to census data, more Bellevue residents were born in a different country than were born in the state of Washington. Of those foreign-born residents, the largest contingents come from India and China, with more than 15,000 residents combined. Significant populations from Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan and Russia also have a presence in Bellevue.

The city is also undergoing a dynamic shift in differences of income between native-born and foreign-born citizens.

The median household income for foreign-born residents is more than $3,000 more than American-born Bellevue residents, but the percent of residents in poverty is higher among those born in a different country, at 9.5 percent compared to natives’ 7.2 percent living in poverty. A foreign-born resident is also much more likely to rent rather than own, at 56 percent compared to 36 percent for those born in America.

For Bellevue as a whole, 7 percent of working-age individuals have an income below the poverty level, dropping from 9 percent in the 2010 census data. Only 5 percent of families find themselves below the poverty line in Bellevue.

The large foreign-born population, which continues to climb, also makes Bellevue one of Washington’s most diverse cities. In the American Community Survey data, 50 percent of Bellevue residents identify as part of “a minority race or ethnicity,” compared to just 15 percent in the 1990 census. Of Bellevue’s population, 34 percent are Asian, compared to just 10 percent in 1990 and 17 percent in 2000.

The median age is rising in Bellevue too, with the average resident clocking in at 38-years old. A full 14 percent of the population is 65 or older.

And as Bellevue ages and brings in foreign workers (70 percent of whom are married, compared to just 49 percent for native-born Bellevue residents), the level of education rises and types of employment changes. For adults over the age of 25, 66 percent now have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 46 percent in 1990.

Additionally, 61 percent of the city’s residents are employed in “management, business, science and arts occupations,” compared to 40 percent several decades ago.

These changing demographics and needs leave Bellevue’s government in a state of transition to provide what its residents need most. Translators in dozens of languages are available in City Hall, and flyers go out to residents in multiple languages as well. The city also has a diversity team to address the needs of ethnic or racial minorities, senior citizens, residents with disabilities and those with language barriers.

As a major (and growing) business hub, Bellevue is projected to see its population grow by 20,000 in the next few decades, and the city will likely become a “minority-majority” city, leaving an exciting, but unknown future ahead.


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