The median income for a household in the city was $48,000 and the median income for a family was $58,183. Males had a median income of $42,257 versus $32,202 for females. The per capita income for the city was $33,463. About 5.9% of families and 9.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.1% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.
Palm Desert was incorporated as a city in 1973 and designated a charter city in 1997. It operates on a council-manager form of government. Residents of Palm Desert elect five non-partisan council members who serve four-year staggered terms, with elections occurring every two years. The position of mayor is non-elected and rotates annually among the members of the city council.
The council serves to pass ordinances, approve budgets, and hire the city manager and city attorney. The city manager oversees administrative operations and the appointment of department heads.