The high household-income levels throughout the region reflect its success in attracting newcomers who work in private business, a growing sector of the economy, as well as the federal government.
“This is a result of the moves of the Northrop Grummans, the Hiltons, the Volkwagens, the SAICs,” said Jim Dinegar, head of the Washington Board of Trade, citing corporations that expanded their presence in Washington in recent years. “They provide high-paying, good jobs that bring more of these people to the area.”
Loudoun County, with its proximity to the high-tech corridor around Dulles International Airport, has watched its population soar over the past five years. Amid one of the nation’s worst recessions, its median household income declined for the first time this year, but only by $400, which is well within the margin of error.
Residents take pride in living in the most affluent county in the country, said Scott K. York (R), chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
“Every time it comes to the budget, everybody comes up and says it’s the wealthiest county, so we should fully fund the school budget,” he said. “We use it often when we try to recruit businesses to Loudoun County.”
With a broad level of affluence in so many places, many residents no longer notice it.
Gordon J. Bernhardt, president of the investment advisory firm Bernhardt Wealth Management in McLean, said he thinks San Diego and San Francisco feel richer.
“If you ask people if they’re affluent, they’ll say they’re not,” he said. “We’ve got some very successful people. They know they are successful. But they probably don’t define themselves as affluent.”
Wealth can introduce a whole new set of problems.
Lisa Sturtevant, a former Arlington County demographer now affiliated with the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason, said one downside to having so many high-income residents is affordable housing becomes scarce. Arlington has lost residents earning less than $75,000, while gaining those earning more than $100,000.
Sturtevant, however, doesn’t live in Arlington County. She’s a resident of Alexandria, just across the county line.
“I couldn’t afford to live in Arlington,” she said.