Where the 1% Live
While many Americans struggle to find jobs, balance their budget and get by with less, some folks are still living high on the hog.
Looking at the most recent Census Bureau data from 2010, we chose the 15 counties in the U.S. with the highest median household income. With three counties exceeding the $100,000 mark, life seems pretty good in these areas, even as the U.S. median household income declined 2.3% from 2009 to 2010. Still, the following 15 richest counties still have a median income that is about double the national average of $49,445.
Read on to see if your county made the list.
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15th Richest: Charles County, Md.
Median Household Income: $87,007
The first of five Maryland counties to make our list, Charles saw a population burst of 21.6% in the first decade of the 21st century.
With Maryland taking up a full third of our list, it’s important to note that this state’s residents took the sixth spot in our ranking of the most generous states in the U.S.
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14th Richest: St. Mary's County, Md.
Median Household Income: $88,444
The median household income in St. Mary’s sky-rocketed from about $72,000 in 2009 to more than $88,000 in 2010, the biggest percentage increase (roughly 22%) on our richest counties list.
This beautiful county lies on the Chesapeake Bay across from Virginia, and is home to the Lexington Park neighborhood as well as a state park and a regional airport.
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13th Richest: Calvert County, Md.
Median Household Income: $88,862
Calvert lies just across the Patuxent River from St. Mary’s County, which holds the 14th spot on our list. The median household income in this county didn’t see the same boom that St. Mary’s saw year over year, though. Its income remained essentially flat, decreasing less than 1% from 2009.
Veterans make up roughly 10% of the population, according to the most recent census data.
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12th Richest: Montgomery County, Md.
Median Household Income: $89,155
With almost 1 million residents, Montgomery is one of the largest counties on our list. It’s no surprise that this county is so large, since it’s situated just north of Washington, D.C. and only an hour from Baltimore.
More than half of the county’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher and the home values in this area are astounding. The median value of owner-occupied homes was $482,900 from 2006-2010.
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11th Richest: Nassau County, N.Y.
Median Household Income: $91,104
Just a hop, skip and a subway ride from Manhattan, Nassau County contains a large chunk of Long Island and Long Beach.
The only New York county to make the list, this area has an extremely low poverty rate, with only 5% of residents living below the poverty line. But what really sets Nassau apart is its diversity, with 20.7% of foreign-born residents and 27.3% of its residents speaking a language other than English at home.
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10th Richest: Morris County, N.J.
Median Household Income: $91,469
Morris just barely snuck into the top 10 richest counties after its median household income fell by roughly $3,000 from 2009. The county’s residents are less than an hour from Manhattan, and the area includes several lakes and state parks. Golfing is big in Morris county, with about 20 places to tee off.
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9th Richest: Prince William County, Va.
Median Household Income: $92,655
Not to be outdone, Virginia matches Maryland with the most counties on our list. Prince William has seen its median household income increase from 2009, even as the national average declined.
Prince William is situated outside of Washington, D.C., just like several other on the list. What makes it stand out from the rest though is the 43.2% population boom it has seen in the past decade. The area is home to many historical sites, including the Manassas National Battlefield Park, where two Civil War battles took place.
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8th Richest: Somerset County, N.J.
Median Household Income: $94,270
With one of the most prestigious colleges in the country just outside the county line (Princeton University), it’s no surprise that the education levels of Somerset County’s residents are very high. Almost 93% of residents have a high school diploma and roughly 50% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
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7th Richest: Stafford County, Va.
Median Household Income: $94,317
With just 128,961 residents, Stafford County is one of the smallest population areas on our list, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in jobs. The county’s unemployment rate is just less than 5%, much better than the current national average of 8.3%.
The wealth of jobs must put residents in the giving mood, since the state of Virginia also came in at the third spot on our list of the most generous states in the U.S.
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6th Richest: Douglas County, Colo.
Median Household Income: $94,909
The only Colorado county and the only county west of the Mississippi to make our list, there’s something special about Douglas. The large youth population (30.5% of residents are under the age of 18) suggests that the county is a good place for families.
Lying just outside of Denver, residents only need to travel up I-25 to get to the Mile High City. The rural beauty must attract residents, as there are only 339.7 people per square mile and the population has seen a 62.4% increase from 2000-2010.
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5th Richest: Arlington County, Va.
Median Household Income: $94,986
Living in Arlington isn’t cheap, so you’d better be making at least the median household income to live in this county that sits just outside of Washington, D.C.
Arlington may not be the richest, but it does set a record for real estate values. The median value of owner-occupied homes in Arlington county is $571,700 – almost $70,000 more than any other county on our list.
This county also stands out as the most educated on our list – 70.1% of residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
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4th Richest: Hunterdon County, N.J.
Median Household Income: $97,874
The richest county in New Jersey, Hunterdon just missed the six-figure mark in median household income. Located just west of Somerset County, which took the 8th-richest county spot, Hunterdon’s income has actually crossed the $100,000 mark before.
While some might assume that Hunterdon’s residents make high salaries by commuting to New York City, where salaries are higher than the national average, the truth is that almost 94% of residents stay in-state for work. In fact, more residents commute to Pennsylvania for work than New York.
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3rd Richest: Howard County, Md.
Median Household Income: $101,771
With an astounding 58.3% of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, Howard County shows that higher education can pay. One of only three counties that have a six-figure median household income in the U.S., Howard is located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., attracting the extremely affluent. The median value of owner-occupied homes in the county is $456,200.
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2nd Richest: Fairfax County, Va.
Median Household Income: $103,010
Fairfax County is one of the largest counties in terms of population to make our list (1,081,726 residents in 2010), but it is also notable for its real estate. Fairfax is one of only two counties on our list to break the half-million mark in home values. Coming in at $507,800 for the median value of owner-occupied homes, the county truly has some spectacular real estate.
Government buffs will be excited to learn that Langley (headquarters of the CIA) is within the county line, so government employees must be making a decent amount of money these days. Also, the unemployment rate in the county has been astoundingly low historically, hitting 1.4% in 1999.
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The Richest County in America: Loudoun County, Va.
Median Household Income: $119,540
With a median household income that is a full $16,000 higher than our second-place finisher, Loudoun county has trounced the competition on its way to becoming the richest county in America.
Another county surrounding our nation’s capital, Loudoun borders both West Virginia and Maryland and is the home to Washington Dulles International Airport. The Appalachian Trail runs along its western border and the area was largely an agricultural community until the airport was built in the 1960s.
The population has continued to increase since then, with the area nearly doubling in population size from 2000 to 2010. The poverty rate is also at an incredibly low 3.2%.
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