“It’s one class of people driving another class of people against them,” he said. “That’s the most anti-American thing you can do.”
When Patricia Baptiste was growing up in Chevy Chase in the 1950s and ’60s, the neighborhood was far less affluent than it is now.
“Everybody lived in three-bedroom colonial houses with nice yards,” said Baptiste, now chair of the Board of Managers for Chevy Chase Village.
The fathers worked for the federal government, and the mothers stayed home to raise the children. “That was the core of Bethesda and Chevy Chase. There was a lot less ostentatious living.”
Today, BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars are common in her neighborhood. Baptiste is one of a handful of people on the block who cut their own grass. And she and her husband drive past the Collection at Chevy Chase, which opened six years ago, and wonder who shops there.
The wave of wealth has made it increasingly harder to crack the Washington area’s 1 percent. Two decades ago, a household income equivalent to $368,000 in today’s dollars was enough to make it. Now it takes 43 percent more.
The District has the region’s most extreme income gap between rich and poor, but the regional imbalance is less than in some other places in the nation.
One-percenters account for 6 percent of all personal income in the Washington area, according to a Post analysis. That’s less than the national average as calculated several ways. And the region lags far behind the metropolitan area with the highest minimum household income for one-percenters: $906,000 in Stamford, Conn., home to many corporate headquarters and financial institutions.
Nevertheless, income inequality in the region, according to the Post analysis, is comparable to what is found in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and New Orleans, metropolitan areas known for big income gaps.
The regional income statistics reflect a profound shift in the region’s economy and lifestyles.
The percentage of adults with college degrees is higher in the Washington area than anywhere else in the nation, and there has been a sharp rise here in households with two salaries from professional jobs.
Many area residents now work for government contractors in the technology, biotech and security fields rather than for the federal government itself.
The top 10 percent of Washington area households account for almost a third of the total income, and only the San Jose area, the heart of Silicon Valley, requires a bigger paycheck to break into the top 20 percent.
The spreading affluence has transformed local neighborhoods. Montgomery, for example, was once known as a bedroom community for higher-ranking civil servants. In the past 30 years, however, as the local economy has diversified, the percentage of households with incomes above $200,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars has tripled.