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R. P. Thead

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December 1, 2012 - 12:00 am
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From a recent Glenn Reynolds USA Today column:

So Washington gets fat, and it does so on money taken from the rest of the country.

Just how fat have Washington and the Beltway counties gotten? According to the latest U.S. Census data, between 2000 and 2010 the richest of the Washington, D.C., area have accrued about twice as much new wealth as those not living in or around the area.

Also, some Washington counties have gotten about twice as much new wealth as some of the other richest counties in the United States.

An April 2012 Forbes article lists the 10 richest counties in the United States — the list contains five D.C.-area counties, including the top three richest on the list.

A comparison with the other richest counties and with the rest of the United States gives a more detailed picture. I compared the differences in median income (family and household) between these 10 counties and the rest of the United States, in addition to looking at income growth over the 10-year period 2000 to 2010. (All of the data that I used come from the U.S. Census website.)

From 2000 to 2010, the richest Washington-area counties’ income (by two income measures — defined at the end of this article) grew at about twice the rate of the rest of the country. D.C.-area income also grew at almost twice the rate as the other richest counties in the country not located in the Washington area.

Here are the counties I used, taken from the Forbes list (note that I include D.C. — it makes sense to use the epicenter of the region’s wealth, although its income, by both measures, actually brings the average of the other five down):

  • Loudoun County, VA
  • Fairfax County, VA
  • Arlington County, VA
  • Falls Church City, VA
  • District of Columbia
  • Howard County, MD

The five counties not in the D.C. area:

  • Los Alamos County, NM
  • Hunterdon County, NJ
  • Douglas County, CO
  • Somerset County, NJ
  • Morris Country, NJ

After averaging the counties’ incomes in 2000 and 2010, using both measures:

The percentage growth in median household income from 2000 to 2010:

  • United States, total — increased by 16.09%
  • 5 richest D.C.-area counties (plus D.C.) — increased by 31.1%
  • Other 5 rich counties — increased by 17.85%

The percentage growth in median family income from 2000 to 2010:

  • United States, total — increased by 17.43%
  • 5 richest D.C.-area counties (plus D.C.) — increased by 30.98%
  • Other 5 rich counties — increased by 19.88%

There are some differences between median household and median family, but those differences are not significantly higher or lower.

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