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How Many Astronauts Can Afford a House in San Francisco?

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This is not a trick question

Right up there with "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" for all-time stumpers, comes this question: How many astronauts can afford to buy a home in San Francisco? The jury remains out on the angels, but the word on astronauts is zero.

Yes, 1,000 hours of flight time and an advanced STEM degree qualifies you to be fired off the face of the earth and get lost on Mars Matt Damon-style, but on average it doesn’t earn you enough annually to compete in our present housing market.

This distressing news comes by way of real estate search site Estately, which conducted an eight-city, six-profession survey comparing salaries in various fields to housing prices in major municipalities. San Francisco has the highest entry barrier, which of course everyone expected, but the astronaut thing is still a little surprising.

Estately tells us that the average astronaut starting salary is only $65,000 a year, about a quarter of the minimum qualifying income the California Association of Realtors recommends you earn before thinking about putting a down payment down on priced-at-median San Francisco home ($1.15 million).

That salary seems pretty low, but NASA confirms it: A civilian astronaut starts at General Schedule 12 pay scale, or $65,140 a year. Of course, you can eventually work your way up to GS-13, and be pulling in $100,700 a year. Which is only $8,000 more than than the average computer programmer, according to Estately. By their calculations, only four percent of those tech workers can afford to be buying in SF.

Zero percent of firefighters ($43,000 a year), teachers ($56,000), and restaurant servers ($24,000) are in the market either. Doctors, with an average salary of $186,000 a year, come out the best, as Estately estimates that 41 percent of them can buy.

Some of Estately‘s figures are off the mark, though: Glassdoor (credited as Estately's own source for salary info) tells us that the average San Francisco programmer makes $68,500 a year—significantly less than Estately thinks. Possibly they meant software developers rather than programmers, who average a comparably princely $94,000.

Starting pay for an entry-level San Francisco firefighter is actually $72,600, according to the city. But the remarkable thing is that it doesn't really matter, because even at those higher figures most of these people are still out of luck. And the poor astronauts are still floating around the $65,000 marker, and actually getting paid less than almost anyone else.