Washington Suburbs Again Dominate List of Nation's Wealthiest Counties

The US Census Bureau finds that the Washington region is rolling in it, and Arlington is No. 1.

By: Benjamin Freed

Earlier this week, the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey put out its latest data sets measuring the nation's economic trends. And just as it did last year, the Washington area is home to many of the country's richest counties, with Arlington topping the list.

Arlington boasted a median family income of $137,216 in 2012, more than $5,000 ahead of its figure in 2011 and enough to leapfrog Loudoun and Fairfax counties to the No. 1 ranking. The tony suburban communities of Loudoun are second, with a median household income of $127,192. Howard County, Maryland was third, at $125,162, while Fairfax County was fourth, with $124,831.

The other Washington-area county making the list was Montgomery County, with a median family income of $113,588, but several other counties in Maryland and Virginia landed above more than $100,000. In total, the median family income in 10 Washington-area counties plus the city of Alexandria hit six figures.

That Washington is one of the wealthiest metropolitan areas in the country is not a new trend; it has been highly ranked for many years. But the American Community Service data have elicited some typical grousing from the likes of the Weekly Standard, which couches the family income list as another sign of a bloated, decadent capital. In fact, as we noted last year—when seven counties from the Washington area made the top 10—Washington has the highest concentration of people with college degrees who flock here for higher-paying jobs. The data could also be skewed by exclusionary zoning.

The the cost of living is higher here, too. Two surveys released in March concluded that the Washington area is the priciest housing market in the nation, with one study finding the median housing price to be nearly 17 times higher than the median income.