The richest counties in the U.S. aren’t as difficult to map out as you might expect. Half of them are concentrated in the same area, within an hour’s drive of Washington D.C.
Several counties on the outskirts of the capitol boast the highest earnings in the country, and that’s due to the high concentrations of well-payed government employees who live there.
An hour’s commute to D.C. is well worth the big bucks these Americans make from Uncle Sam. Thanks to our tax dollars, they’re living the dream.
Now Forbes has listed the 10 richest counties in the U.S., and five of them blanket D.C:
Virginia’s Loudoun County boasts an eye-popping median household income of $125,900, tops in the nation, according to 2015 Census Bureau estimates, the most recent available. Almost 10,000 Loudoun residents commute to D.C., but the vast majority of residents find plentiful well-paid job opportunities close to home – the top local employers are Dulles Airport, the Department of Homeland Security and the Loudoun County Public Schools.
Loudoun County also houses a large amount of technology companies and data centers — up to 70% of the world’s Internet traffic flows through Loudoun’s data centers each day.
In second place is its Virginia neighbor Falls Church City, a small city encompassing just 2.2 square miles that has previously topped the list of wealthiest counties. The vast majority, 78.8%, of Falls Church adult residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Though technically an independent city, Falls Church is considered by the Census Bureau to be equivalent to a county. It’s a government town: 31.3% of Falls Church residents are employed by Uncle Sam.
Other D.C. suburbs with high earning include Virginia’s Fairfax and Arlington counties and Howard County in Maryland.
Counties further from the Capitol can still enjoy avalanches of cash flowing in from the feds. The U.S. government of course has no money of its own to make so many people rich.
Everyday Americans can be thanked for paying these enormous salaries that make several U.S. counties the envy of the continent.
Unless you too have endless rivers of money flowing into your household from the federal government, it might be unwise to pack your bags and move to the promised land. The median income for these counties doesn’t come from a minority of people’s income vastly outweighing the majority’s. These counties are rich, through and through, all on the backs of everyone else.
The long arm of government spending is also fueling high incomes in Los Alamos County, N.M., sixth on the list this year and home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The high median incomes of most of the counties on our list are not due to a wealthy few masking a lower-earning population. In both Falls Church and Colorado’s Douglas County, the poverty rate is a scant 4%, compared to the national rate of 13.5%, with most counties on the list falling between 4% and 6%. Only Arlington County, Va., and Santa Clara County, Calif., had higher poverty rates, at 9% and 9.5%, respectively.
Forbes’s list comes from the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates for 2015.