Loudoun, Fairfax lead U.S. in median income
Loudoun ranks as the richest county in the United States, immediately followed by Fairfax and Howard counties, while Montgomery, traditionally one of the wealthiest, is now 10th.
Forbes magazine ranked eight other Washington-area counties in its list of the nation's 25 wealthiest counties, far more than any other area in the country. The rankings are based on 2008 median household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
America's 25 richest counties
Rank County Population Median household income 1 Loudoun County 277,433 $110,643 2 Fairfax County 1,005,980 $106,785 3 Howard County 272,412 $101,710 4 Hunterdon County, N.J. 129,000 $100,947 5 Somerset County, N.J. 321,589 $100,207 6 Fairfax City 23,281 $98,133 7 Morris County, N.J. 486,459 $97,565 8 Douglas County, Colo. 270,286 $97,480 9 Arlington County 204,889 $96,390 10 Montgomery County 942,747 $93,999 11 Nassau County, N.Y. 1,352,817 $93,579 12 Stafford County 120,219 $89,536 13 Calvert County 88,126 $89,049 14 Prince William County 358,719 $88,675 15 Putnam County, N.Y. 99,195 $88,580 16 Goochland County, Va. 20,494 $88,552 17 Williamson County, Tenn. 165,336 $88,316 18 Marin County, Calif. 246,985 $88,101 19 Santa Clara County, Calif. 1,734,756 $87,287 20 Forsyth County, Ga. 158,009 $86,938 21 Charles County 140,032 $86,586 22 Summit County, Utah 35,448 $85,258 23 Alexandria City 140,657 $85,135 24 Chester County, Pa. 485,083 $84,844 25 Suffolk County, N.Y. 1,510,716 $84,767
Loudoun's median household income was $110,643, while Fairfax's was $106,785 and Howard's came in at $101,710.
"This is obviously very good news," said David Robertson, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. "While certainly unemployment is higher than we would like, it is well better than the national average."
Rivals Fairfax and Montgomery have competed for the top slots in recent decades. The counties, similar in population size and demographics, were ranked first and second in the 1970 census, with median incomes of $14,984 and $14,854, respectively.
In recent years, however, Loudoun has risen to the top and Fairfax has increased the gap. The two counties ranked first and second in median household income in 2007 and 2008, according to data from the American Community Survey.
Fairfax Supervisor John Cook, R-Braddock, said his county continues to outrank Montgomery because Fairfax's more flexible tax laws help to attract businesses.
"We're so much better off here than other places," he said. "It's not like we're talking about draconian cuts or anything."
To Cook's point, a recent report commissioned by the Montgomery County Council found that Fairfax has outpaced Montgomery in job growth since the mid-1980s and now boasts 200,000 more jobs than its neighbor across the Potomac River.
Northern Virginia and Fairfax also house government agencies and employers that have been less affected by the economic downturn than biotech-heavy Montgomery, Robertson said.
While other traditionally wealthy regions such as New York and San Francisco have suffered heavily in the recession, the Washington area benefits from the presence of the federal government and its contractors, the overall high level of education, and the area's high proportion of two-income households.
The local economy "really is built on those pillars," Robertson said. "Really all of the region [is] poised for a period of new growth and prosperity" following the economic downturn.
Examiner Staff Writer Brian Hughes contributed to this report.