News & Politics

DC Is Wealthiest "State" According to Wallet Hub

The District does well, but enough with the skewed rankings, internet!

UPDATE, 10/16/14: In an e-mail, WalletHub editor John Kiernan writes that his site does not spam people, but that he has removed the author of this post from his distribution list. He also says that “WalletHub rankings are always 100% data driven and are typically based on official government data sets.” This post has been changed to make clear that WalletHub is a personal-finance website and that the subjects about which it compiles rankings appear arbitrary, rather than the methodology of those rankings.

District residents have the highest net worth of anyone in the United States, according to the latest tabulations by Wallet Hub, a personal-finance website that bombs reporters’ e-mail inboxes with press releases about its rankings of arbitrary things like “Best and Worst Cities for Hispanic Entrepreneurs” and “Best and Worst States for Military Retirees.”

To come up with this report, Wallet Hub correlated each state’s median household income against its gross domestic product per capita and individual tax burdens. While the site’s income rankings put DC in sixth place, the District led the other two categories, good enough for the top overall spot.

But don’t light that cigar with a $100 bill just yet: Wallet Hub, as sites like these so often do, made the fatal error of putting the District—a 68.3-square-mile city—on equal footing with states. And once again, we are required to explain to the rest of the internet that DC is a city, not a state. For easy evidence, check Wallet Hub’s income ranking for Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles. You won’t find them, but you will find Massachusetts, Illinois, and California. Per capita gross domestic products and tax burdens can be greatly skewed when measuring city populations against state populations. Geographic subdivisions are best measured against each other when every subject in the sample set is of the same type—for example, when determining the wealthiest counties in the nation.

Although Wallet Hub mucked it up, it’s worth noting that relative to the rest of the United States, the District’s median household income of $66,583—according to the Census Bureau—is higher than those in all but four states (Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Alaska).

If you’re looking for a better analysis of the expanding gulf between the city’s wealthiest and poorest residents, you can do much better, like the Urban Institute’s extensive report Tuesday about the decreasing availability of affordable housing in DC as it gets more high-income newcomers and expensive apartments and condominiums.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.