Economic Growth

Washington's Riches: D.C. Area Now Boasts 7 of the Nation's Top-Earning Counties

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Government is good business for those in and around the imperial city: Counties in the Washington, D.C. area increasingly rank among the highest in the nation in terms of household earning, reports The Washington Post:

The Washington region has emerged from the recession looking even more affluent compared with the rest of the country, boasting seven of the 10 counties with the highest household incomes in the nation, new census numbers show.

With a median household income surpassing $119,000, Loudoun County heads the list. Fairfax County, at nearly $106,000, is second. Both have held the same positions for several years running.

…The stability of an economy built on the pillars of the federal government, its legions of contractors and a flourishing high-tech sector is evident in the income rankings.

In 2007, before the recession began, five counties in suburban Washington made it into the top 10. By 2010, there were six. The seven in the latest ranking is an all-time high.

This gives a bit of a sense of how economically disconnected the nation's capitol city is from much of the rest of the country. It also highlights how much money is flowing into the Washington area, where the economy is largely built around supporting the functions of the federal government. And it tells you something about where American businesses invested during the recession: in political influence and power. Which reveals who actually benefits from economic recovery measures and massive regulatory overhauls. When Washington's power grows, so does the value of K Street, and, in turn, so do real-estate prices in the surrounding area. 

NEXT: Changing Story on Embassy Attacks Shows How U.S. Policy is Turning Into Shiite

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  1. The Washington region has emerged from the recession looking even more affluent compared with the rest of the country

    Unexpectedly.

    The Washington region has unexpectedly emerged from the recession looking even more affluent compared with the rest of the country

    Get with the program, WaPo.

  2. It’s the twelve noon massive thread dump. Thanks Reason!

  3. Nothing is a better symbol of the looter state then the prosperity of the capital.

    1. And of the courtiers who petition the King.

      Anyone still have any questions why Ron Paul—or anyone else serious about devolving power back to the States—was hated by everyone in Washington?

      1. I read a really good essay once, might have been Rand, but could have been someone else. It was all about New York and how all the businessmen, bankers, industrialists were there, and Washington DC was just a sleepy little Southern town. Talked about how different that was from the European model, where business was so dependent on the favor of the ruled that they had to maintain offices in the capital.

        This essay was written in the 50s I think. Obviously things have changed a lot.

      2. It’s because he’s greedy and they’re altruistic and self-sacrificing, obviously.

  4. Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure

    1. My dad had a joke about this very proposal…If Washington DC were to be nuked, hundreds of innocent people would be killed.

  5. What percentage of Reason employees live in these counties?

    1. Because of this thing called the internet reason employees don’t actually need to live in the DC area so the percentage is pretty low.

      1. What’s the percentage though?

        1. Why do you care? Are you insinuating that reason staffers are helping themselves to government money?

  6. Washington’s Riches: D.C. Area Now Boasts 7 of the Nation’s Top-Earning Counties

    I’m sure it’s just a massive coincidence.

  7. If Washington DC were to be nuked, hundreds of innocent people would be killed.

    Dozens, anyway.

  8. Heard some newsie on the radio opining that the economy was improving and this was good for Obama’s election chances. Their usual 2 second quotes were both from people living in DC. I naturally wrote those two off as living in the public trought, but it made me wonder if the newsie chose them on purpose for that reason, or because they were right outside the newsie’s office and he was lazy.

    1. the economy was improving

      [citation needed]

  9. The federal government certainly has a lot to do with this, but the article also notes that the dc region has the highest percentage of college graduates in the country. And college graduates on average earn more than non-college graduates. If you adjusted the populations of other large urban areas to have a similar percentage of college graduates, you’d likely see an increase in median income there too.

    1. Who do you think is distorting the labor market there to demand more college graduates than normal?

      1. The fed gov loves its credentialism. Of course, a masters of Public Policy isn’t much of a credential.

        1. My husband’s first job after getting his B.S. in Economics (with a minor in American Government) was as a budget analyst for Fairfax County. He managed a couple of community center budgets and did revenue forecasting. He left when two women whose work HE did (because they were lazy and stupid) were promoted because they had Masters of Public Administration.

          1. He left when two women whose work HE did (because they were lazy and stupid) were promoted because they had Masters of Public Administration.

            Well, I’m sure that’s his story anyways.

            1. He was explicitly told they got the bump because they had MPAs.

              1. That’s not the part I’m disputing. I’m disputing the “because they were lazy and stupid” part. Your husband was hired to do economics analysis and was given economics analysis work to do. I don’t see how that qualifies as doing someone else’s work.

                1. Presumably the other two were also budget analysts, and he wound up having to do their analyses too.

                  1. Ding-ding-ding! We have a winner! He was doing his assigned work, plus their assigned work. but getting work done was considered secondary to having the right credentials.

                    1. So these women did nothing useful and then claimed credit for someone else’s hard work?

                      They sound perfect for government work.

        2. Perhaps you,d be interested in our new “Masterofnation” degree.

      2. Oh, I’m so sorry! Our time is up.

      3. Like I said, I don’t deny the federal government’s role in this. But people shouldn’t be surprised that a region with a greater percentage of college graduates than others has a higher median income.

        1. I’m just hoping that we’ve reached Peak Attorney already.

        2. Nor should they be surprised that a region with a greater percentage of parasites, moochers, thieves and lying scumbags with access basically unlimited power has a higher median income.

          But I’m sure the college degrees do help too.

        3. People shouldn’t be surprised that a region with a greater percentage of luxury cars on the road has a higher median income.

          This doesn’t change the fact that the CAUSE of the higher median income is elsewhere. It’s a red herring.

          1. I think it does. The college degree thing creates a virtuous cycle. Lots of IT folks moved to NOVA to work for IT government contractors. But now there are lots of IT based businesses here that have nothing or little to do with the government, because the companies moved to where the talent was (or the talent started the businesses). There’s a similar dynamic with pharma/biomedical research and NIH in the bethesda area.

        4. But how many of those degrees actually improve their work performance? If it does not improve performance then it should have nothing to do with their wages.

          1. I would imagine having a medical degree improves on being a doctor, a nursing degree on being a nurse, a PhD on being a researcher, a JD on being a lawyer, etc. Maybe some degrees are not worth much, but you can say the same about many degrees that get you promoted in the private section (MBA?).

    2. The federal government certainly has a lot to do with this, but the article also notes that the dc region has the highest percentage of college graduates in the country. And college graduates on average earn more than non-college graduates.

      Earn more by doing what, exactly?

      1. Lawyering, doctoring, engineering, researching, etc. Most people at various agencies and contractors aren’t “bureaucrats” in the sense that they push paper around all day. Most of them do normal jobs like everywhere else in the economy, just for the federal government.

  10. Sounds like the pre-cursor to “The Hunger Games”.

  11. Hey Suderman what’s the hooker distribution curve look like for DC?

  12. I was born in DC, spent my first 9 years in the City of Alexandria, the following 19 years in Fairfax County, and the last 5 years in Loudoun County.

    My experience is that everyone in this area works for the government either directly or indirectly. You have to really TRY to avoid that black hole of being a government stooge. My husband just started a new job yesterday, after a year of being unemployed/under-employed, working for a German automaker whose American HQ is in NoVa. He spent that long out of work because he was sick of being a cog in The Machine of government, but all the available jobs were either working for government consultants or contractors. Most require a security clearance, which he refuses to get. He considers the new job to be a coup because for the first time in his career he’ll be working for a company that isn’t soaking American taxpayers (if anything, they’re soaking German taxpayers).

    1. “a company that isn’t soaking American taxpayers”

      “Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said the $6 million incentive package is typical for a deal of this size.”

      Don’t be so sure about that.

      1. I had a feeling they moved to NoVa from Detroit for some nefarious reason.

        1. They probably didn’t move for $6 million. That was just a giveaway of the kind politicians love because it means they can take credit for JOBBBBZZZZZZ….

        2. There’s no real reason for them to be in Detroit or any other particular US city, since their cars are coming from Germany and Mexico (yes, I know where your husband works…it’s near my house).

          Assuming the “car stuff” is all being done overseas, the US affiliate probably has more need for IT people than it does automotive specialists, so the Dulles Corridor is a good place for them in that regard.

          1. Hubs is working for the Strategy group within Audi. At the set of cubicles next to his is the design group for Lamborghini. I assumed all their designers were in Europe. I guess not.

            Btw, as you might imagine, the office parking lot is amazing.

            1. Wow, Lamborghinis designed in Reston, Va.? That’s…depressing.

              1. Herndon. I wonder what they are designing.

              2. Reston in general is depressing.

        3. “No Va” is sspanish for “it doesn’t go”

          1. You’d think Chevy would’ve noodled that through before they tried selling the Nova in Latin America.

  13. To borrow Charles Murray’s term, “superzips.”

    And what is that weird siglum on Uncle Sam’s moneybag? Does that represent the one-world currency soon to be rolled out?

    1. That will be the new MegaDollar that they’ll rollout next year to handle the hyperinflation.

  14. The business of America is government. And business is good.

    1. I thought this was now America’s business.

        1. But who’s buying?

        1. Who is in charge of quality control for this program? I’d like to volunteer.

          1. It’s all run from Taintsville, so just drive down and talk to the Urkobold. He’d probably like you to bring some FSU cowgirls, too.

  15. Don’t worry. They all pay income tax, so Romney says they’re okay!

  16. It’s the government IT contracting business that has really driven up salaries in the DC area, more so than the bureaucrats themselves (who do well, but not excessively so). It’s kind of amusing/horrifying listening to our local news radio station (WTOP), because every single advertisement is for one IT contractor or another.

    Much of the growth was driven by the post-9/11 gusher of defense and intelligence agency money into Northern Virginia. All of that PATRIOT Act spying and nefarious business requires thousands of IT contractors, most of whom make big salaries. The civilian agencies certainly have their share of well-paid contractors, but it’s the defense sector that drives the hiring around here.

  17. That word, ‘earning’. I do not think it means what you think it means, Suderman.

    1. It’s the IRS definition of the word.

  18. Don’t fucking publicize this! Once HuffPo catches wind of it, they’ll be writing how we need to give DC more power and authority so they can show the rest of us how to be as successful as they are!

  19. Twenty agricultural worlds were the granary of Trantor. A universe was its servant. Tightly held by the huge metal arms on either side, the trade ship was gently lowered down the huge ramp that led to the hangar. Already Devers had fumed his way through the manifold complications of a world conceived in paper work and dedicated to the principle of the form-in-quadruplicate. There had been the preliminary halt in space, where the first of what had grown into a hundred questionnaires had been filled out. Ducem Barr was a Siwennian and subject of the Emperor, but Lathan Devers was an unknown without the requisite documents.

  20. The stability of an economy built on the pillars of the federal government, its legions of contractors and a flourishing high-tech sector is evident in the income rankings.

    Built on the backs of taxpayers present and future, you mean. Or anyone foolish enough to lend fedgov money.

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