The wealthiest parts of the country are clustered around metropolitan areas in the Northeast, the Mid Atlantic, and the West Coast. Of the 15 wealthiest major U.S. counties based on median annual household income, 12 are within commuting distance of New York City, Washington, D.C., or Baltimore.
Regardless of its location, however, each U.S. state has at least one region where residents tend to be wealthier than the average nationwide. In some states, residents of the wealthiest county are extremely affluent, while in other states incomes are only slightly higher than the U.S. median.
They typical household in Maricopa County — the wealthiest in Arizona — earns $54,229 a year, just slightly higher than the national median household income of $53,889 a year. Meanwhile, Loudon, Virginia’s wealthiest county, has a median household income of $123,453 a year. To highlight how income levels vary geographically, 24/7 Wall St. ranked each county’s annual median household income in every state, identifying each state’s wealthiest county.
While there are many differences between the wealthiest counties, including size, proximity to other cities, and the type and availability of natural resources, there are also many similarities. Notably, high income counties almost always have a favorable job market. Fewer workers out of a job means that fewer area residents have to rely on other, usually low-income sources such as government subsidies or part-time work, to earn a living. A healthy economy can also produce lucrative jobs that pay well above the national median. Just three of the 50 counties on this list have a higher unemployment rate than the national figure of 4.6%. All but six of the wealthiest counties have a higher unemployment rate than their respective states.
Educational attainment is one of the best predictors of future income levels. Compared with state measures and nearby poor counties, populations in high-income counties tend to have higher college attainment rates. In a majority of states, the highest income county reports a college attainment rate at least double that of the poorest county. In 20 states, the college attainment rate in the wealthiest county is more than three times the poorest county’s rate.
The wealthiest counties tend to be clustered around their state’s largest metropolitan economies. Within many metropolitan areas, there are densely populated areas of concentrated poverty. At the same time, high-paying jobs tend to be concentrated in major cities, and many metropolitan areas have at least one county that consists primarily of affluent neighborhoods. While the population density nationwide is about 87 people per square mile, the population density in the majority of the wealthiest counties is at least 300 people per square mile.
To identify the richest county in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed median annual household incomes for each U.S. county from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). In order to be considered, counties or county-equivalents had to have a population of at least 10,000 people. We also reviewed in each county the percentage of adults who have completed at least high school and at least college, as well as poverty rates, the percentage of owner-occupied housing units (the homeownership rate), median home values, and the percentage of area adults who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native from the ACS. All ACS data are five-year averages for 2011-2015. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are for November 2016, the most recently available period. Population density came from the Census Bureau’s 2010 decennial census.
These are the poorest counties in each state.
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