By any measure, the region sets a high income bar for the rich to hurdle. Nationally, the top 1 percent of all households had annual incomes of $387,000 or more in 2010. Only 11 metropolitan areas had a higher threshold than the Washington area’s. Most of them are in Connecticut or New Jersey, within commuting distance of New York City. The San Francisco and Boston areas round out the top dozen big-money citadels.
The District’s threshold for a 1 percenter — $617,000 — was even higher than the region’s, though it had dropped from $673,000 in 2007, before the recession. If the District were a state, it would be second only to Connecticut, home to several Fortune 500 companies and major hedge funds, as well as many commuters to Wall Street.
Among the states, Maryland had the fifth-highest threshold, almost $477,000. And Virginia’s was eighth highest, at more than $427,000.
The figures come from a report released Wednesday by Sentier Research, a firm that analyzes census income data. If anything, the statistics understate wealth, said Gordon Green, one of the report’s two authors. It includes just income, not capital gains or one-time windfalls.
The Washington area pops up repeatedly in the report as one of the most prosperous in the nation, even though median household incomes slipped in many local jurisdictions during the recession.
The local slippage did not drag down the District, which stood out with an 8 percent increase in median income from 2007 to 2010. In the same period, median household income dropped 3.5 percent nationally, 2 percent in Maryland and Virginia (the entire states, not just the D.C. suburbs), and 1 percent in the Washington region.
Eric Friedman, who lives in Ohio but spends two days a week in Washington, remarked on the difference between the rich in Ohio and the rich here.
“In Ohio and a lot of areas like it, the wealth is manifested in the suburbs and not so much in the cities,” said Friedman, a principal in Deloitte Consulting, as he left the Willard Hotel. “If you live in a city in Ohio, you are probably not in that 1 percent.”
Economists and demographers said Washington’s relative prosperity is largely a result of the region’s many government-related jobs and the preponderance of highly educated, two-income households.
“When you talk about household incomes, we have an advantage,” said Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. “It’s a more professional workforce. If there are two adults in a household of working age, they usually are working.”