Washington area tops list for income

Residents of Washington and the surrounding suburbs rank among the wealthiest in the nation.

According to census data, all the congressional districts surrounding Washington have a median household income of at least $57,727, nearly $16,000 above the national average of $41,994. Two of the 10 wealthiest congressional districts are in the Washington suburbs.

The wealthiest district in the nation is the 11th District of Virginia, represented by Republican Tom Davis. The median household income in the district is $80,397, almost double the national average.

The district includes Tysons Corner, Baileys Crossroads and Annandale. Outside the Beltway, the district includes Vienna, Fairfax, Springfield, Burke, Clifton, Centreville and part of Mount Vernon.

The ninth wealthiest district in the nation is the 10th District of Virginia, represented by Frank Wolf (R). The median household income in Wolf’s district is $71,560.

The district includes McLean, which many of Washington’s elite lawyers, lobbyists and lawmakers call home. Beyond McLean, the district includes Great Falls, Herndon, Manassas, the Route 28 corridor near Dulles International Airport and all of Loudoun County.

Other districts surrounding Washington are also doing well.

Following the Virginia 11th and 10th is the Maryland 8th, represented by Chris Van Hollen (D). The median household income is $68,306. The district includes most of Montgomery County.

Rep. Jim Moran (D) hails from Virginia’s 8th District, with a median household income of $63,430. The district contains all of Arlington County as well as the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.

Maryland’s 5th District has a median household income of $62,661 and is the home of Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D). The district includes St. Mary’s, Charles and Calvert counties, as well as part of Prince George’s County.

The last district surrounding Washington is Maryland’s 4th District, represented by Democrat Albert Wynn. The district has a median household income of $57,727. It includes most of Prince George’s County inside the Beltway and parts of Montgomery County.

The median household income of Washington itself is $40,127.

Frederick Lynch, associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, says these districts are “so well-heeled because of the presence of high-level federal workers and two-income families” and because “lobbyists and other corporate types flock to the D.C. area.” 

All of the 10 richest districts are located around major metropolitan areas. Each is a suburb of Washington, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver or Chicago.

Lynch says he is not surprised by the trend: “Wealthy suburbs have always ringed inner cities — the North Shore outside Chicago, Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills outside Detroit, wealthy Long Island and Hudson Valley suburbs of N.Y.”

What is surprising is the proximity of wealthy areas to Washington’s inner city. Unlike New York, Chicago and other major cities, the wealthiest suburbs in Washington are the ones closest to the city.

William Frey, visiting fellow of metropolitan policy at the Brookings Institution, attributes this trend to the importance of social circles in Washington.

Frey says these wealthy areas grew around Washington’s old social elite and have remained that way because of the continued importance of dinner parties, speakers, and receptions at downtown hotels on the Washington social scene. Frey says, “There is a certain clubiness to Washington that does not exist in New York or Chicago.”

The 10 wealthiest congressional districts are Virginia-11, Davis; New Jersey-11, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R); California-14, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D); Georgia-6, Rep. Tom Price (R); California-15, Rep. Mike Honda (D); New Jersey-7, Rep. Michael Ferguson (R); Colorado-6, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R); New Jersey-5, Rep. Scott Garrett (R); Virginia-10, Wolf; and Illinois-13, Rep. Judy Biggert (R).

Eight Republicans represent the 10 richest districts. New Jersey is the most represented state, with three districts in the top 10. Virginia and California both have two districts in the top 10.