Recessions come to the D.C. region, but they're not as deep as in most of the nation.  (AP photo) Recessions come to the D.C. region, but they're not as deep as in most of the nation.  (AP photo)

Recessions come to the D.C. region, but they're not as deep as in most of the nation. (AP photo)

By Sean Gorman September 29, 2015

Huckabee says six of the 10 wealthiest U.S. counties surround D.C.

Mike Huckabee says he’s found the road to riches, and it’s called the Capital Beltway.

"Six of the 10 richest counties in the United States surround Washington, D.C.," the GOP presidential candidate said during a Sept. 24 interview on "The John Fredericks Show," a Hampton Roads-based radio program.

Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, cited the statistic while contending that federal power brokers have set up a system that shields them from economic hard times.

We emailed Huckabee’s campaign asking for the source of his numbers and didn’t hear back. But PolitiFact has examined variations of his statement that have been uttered by three other Republicans: Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and, most recently, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The six-of-10 figure is a reference to the counties with the highest median household income, a widely used measure of county-wide wealth. The U.S. Census Bureau compiles the income data each year.

Here are the 10 counties with the highest median income in 2013, the latest year for which figures are available:

Loudoun County, Va. -- $117,680

Falls Church, Va. -- $117,452

Los Alamos County, N.M. -- $110,930

Fairfax County, Va. -- $110,658

Howard County, Md. -- $108,503

Hunterdon County, N.J -- $107,203

Douglas County, Colo. -- $105,192

Arlington County, Va. -- $101,533

Morris County, N.J. -- $99,950

Montgomery County, Md. -- $97,873

That list includes six counties -- four in Virginia and two in Maryland -- that are located outside Washington. Although Falls Church is a city, it’s treated as a county by the Census Bureau.

We looked at the annual Census Bureau figures going back to 2009. In each of those years, there also were a half-dozen D.C. suburban counties that made the top 10 list of the highest median household income.

It’s no secret that the federal government is the major seed of affluence in the D.C. area, sprouting high-paying government and contracting jobs. The suburbs have some of the highest education levels in the nation, according to Terry Rephann, a regional economist at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

We should make a statistical note here.

Median household income is the midrange point where half of the county’s households make more than the median and the other half makes less. For example, if only five families lived in a county, the median income would be that of the third highest-earning household.

Not all measures rank the D.C. suburbs among the 10 richest counties. Money magazine, for example, looked at average income -- the total income in a county divided by its residents. Based on that data from 2012, none of the counties near Washington made a Money list of the 10 richest counties published last year. If you’re wondering, No. 1 in was Teton County in  Wyoming.

Rephann, however, told us that average income can easily be thrown off by a few extremely wealthy people living in a less populous rural county. Median income is a better way to measure the richest counties, he said.

We’ll also note that while median incomes are high around Washington, that doesn’t mean everything is rosy there. Economists told us for a recent fact-check that the Virginia economy has taken a hit in recent years amid federal budget-cutting in D.C.

Our ruling

Huckabee said six of the 10 richest counties in the United States surround Washington, D.C.

Judged by median household income -- a standard way for tracking a county’s wealth -- his statement is correct.

We rate his statement True.

Our Sources

Mike Huckabee’s comments on the John Fredericks Show, Sept. 24, 2015. (His statement is at just over 10 minutes into interview).

Mike Huckabee, "Fight for families, not for the elites," May 9, 2015.

Mike Huckabee op-ed in The Daily Caller, "Where other Republicans fear to tread: Why I spoke to the AFL-CIO," July 29, 2015.

Interview with Terry Rephann, regional economist at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, Sept. 25, 2015.

U.S. Census Bureau Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, "Release highlights of 2013," Dec. 17, 2014.

U.S. Census Bureau Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, "Release Highlights of 2012," Dec. 11, 2013.

U.S. Census Bureau Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, "Release highlights of 2011," Dec. 12, 2012.

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Scott Walker says most of the 10 richest counties are around Washington D.C.," March 2, 2015.

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

PolitiFact, "Sarah Palin says D.C. is home to 7 of 10 of the highest-income counties," March 20, 2013.

PolitiFact Virginia, "Glen Sturtevant says Virignia has ‘zero growth’ last year," Aug. 25, 2015.

Email from Ralph Rodriguez, economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Sept. 24, 2015.

Forbes, "America’s richest counties," April 1, 2014.

Money magazine, "The 10 richest counties in America," July 21, 2014.

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

U.S. Census Bureau "Median Income," accessed Sept. 25, 2015.

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