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Molly Moorhead
By Molly Moorhead March 20, 2013

Sarah Palin says D.C. is home to 7 of 10 of the highest-income counties

Supersize soda in hand, Sarah Palin rallied the CPAC crowd with barbs at "liberal media folk," jokes about President Barack Obama’s background and even a shout of "You lie!"

Her speech at the annual meeting of conservative activists emphasized the need to rebuild the country -- not the Republican Party -- with an anti-Washington focus.


"The permanent political class is in permanent campaign mode. So where do we go from here?" Palin said. "... At a time when Washington is so powerful that seven of the 10 highest-income counties in the country ring the city, allow yourself to imagine leadership that deigns to understand us little people, us clinging to our God, our guns, our Constitution and the grass roots!"


Palin isn’t the first to cite that statistic about the wealth concentration in the nation’s capital. (PolitiFact Ohio checked it out earlier this year.) Here’s a fresh look.


The statistic comes from the 2011 American Community Survey, a yearly estimate of population characteristics put out by the U.S. Census Bureau.


The data was released last fall, and the Washington Post compiled it into a "Top 100" list. Indeed, seven of the top 10 are in the greater Washington, D.C. area:


1 - Loudon County, Va., median income $119,134


2 - Fairfax County, Va., median income $105,797

3 - Arlington County, Va., median income $100,735

5 - Howard County, Md., median income $98,953

7 - Prince William County, Va., median income $95,146

8 - Fauquier County, Va., median income $93,762

10 - Montgomery County, Md., $92,909

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So Palin’s claim is on the money. We wondered: What’s making the nation’s capital so well-off?


Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, told PolitiFact some of the factors: "The D.C. area ranks third in the U.S. in the number of workers per household and second in labor-force participation rate, among the lowest in unemployment, and No. 1 in years completed in school ...  We also work predominantly in professional and business services, and this is what explains this high ranking."


Salim Furth, senior policy analyst for macroeconomics at the conservative Heritage Foundation, mentioned two other rankings: Washington is third in the country in both millionaires per capita and median gross rent.


"That seems to me like poor people are getting priced out, and that helps push up your income stats if you can only stay here if you get a great job -- and the federal government gives really great jobs," he said.


Those statistics: there are 320,000 federal jobs in the D.C. area, and 55 percent of them pay $100,000 per year or more, he said.


And even though that salary doesn’t go as far as it would in, say, rural Mississippi, "it doesn’t eat up all of the wage gains," Furth said.


Beyond the federal jobs, there are also industries concentrated around Washington because of the government presence, such as lobbyists, the defense industry and federal contractors.


"There really is a lot of wealth here," Furth said. "There’s definitely a feel of everybody’s wealthy, everybody has nice things. You should dress up nice to go out. Drinks are expensive in a bar. Rent is expensive even if you’re in a crummy neighborhood."


The ruling


Palin said seven of the 10 wealthiest counties are in greater Washington D.C. The claim is accurate. We rate it True.


Editor's note: This article has been changed to correct which state Montgomery County is in.

Our Sources

Youtube, Sarah Palin’s CPAC speech, March 16, 2013

PolitiFact Ohio, "Jim Jordan says seven of the nation's 10 wealthiest counties are in the Greater Washington area," Jan. 14, 2013


Washington Post, "Highest income counties in 2011," Sept. 20, 2012


Washington Post, "Seven of nation’s 10 most affluent counties are in Washington region," Sept. 20, 2012


Email interview with Stephen Fuller, Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, March 20, 2013


Interview with Salim Furth, Heritage Foundation, March 20, 2013


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Sarah Palin says D.C. is home to 7 of 10 of the highest-income counties

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