Six of the nation’s 10 wealthiest counties, "according to median income, are in and around the Washington, D.C. area."  

Scott Walker on Friday, February 6th, 2015 in a speech

Scott Walker says most of the 10 richest counties are around Washington, D.C.

Arguing that too much power is concentrated around Washington, D.C., Gov. Scott Walker has cited figures on how high incomes are in the D.C. area.

Speaking at an event to mark Ronald Reagan’s birthday, Gov. Scott Walker complained about, of all things, income inequality.

It's not like the Wisconsin Republican was about to Occupy anything.

He was making a larger, Reagan-like argument -- that there is too much power concentrated in Washington, D.C.

During his remarks, given Feb. 6, 2015 at the late president’s alma mater, Eureka College in Eureka, Ill., Walker said:

"In fact, if you have any doubt, if you looked last year, the numbers that we saw put out showed that six of the top 10 wealthiest counties in America -- six of the top 10 wealthiest communities in America, by county, according to median income -- are in and around the Washington, D.C., area," Walker said. "That tell you anything about where we're growing the economy in this nation?"

The governor made the same six-in-10 claim a week earlier, in another speech -- in Washington. And again in remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington. 

Let's see if it's true.

The numbers

We’ll note at the top that Walker was careful to make his claim about counties and median income. Nothing wrong with that. The median divides the income distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the households falling below the median income and one-half above the median.

But it's worth noting that you'd get a different picture if you picked variables such as cities or average income.

For median household income, the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures for counties are estimates for 2013. The figures were released in December 2014.

As Walker stated, six of the top 10 counties are in Washington suburbs, either in Virginia or Maryland.


County Name                      

Median Household Income Estimate for 2013

Loudoun County, VA                               


Falls Church city, VA                            


Los Alamos County, NM                            


Fairfax County, VA                               


Howard County, MD                                


Hunterdon County, NJ                             


Douglas County, CO                               


Arlington County, VA                             


Morris County, NJ                                


Montgomery County, MD                            



(Technically, Falls Church is an "independent city" but is treated as a county by the Census Bureau.)

As we noted, the top 10 look much different if you consider average income. That's because super-rich residents can skew the data much higher.

Indeed, in July 2014, Money published a list, based on IRS figures from individual tax returns, for the 2012 tax year.

No suburban county around D.C. made the top 10.

The highest average income was $296,778 in Teton County, Wyo. Three of the top 10 counties were in Texas.

Salim Furth, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, told us the D.C. area ranks high in median income because of its "high-paying jobs in and around government, and high real estate prices which nudge out retirees and people with low incomes."

David Egan-Robertson, a demographer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Applied Population Laboratory, said many federal jobs, as well as private-sector positions in the D.C. region under federal contract, require high levels of expertise. And "to attract and retain this high level of expertise requires higher levels of compensation."

One footnote:

In early 2013, our colleagues rated two claims similar to Walker's. Also made by Republican politicians, those claims relied on data slightly older than what Walker cited.

Both U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin had said seven of the nation's 10 richest counties were in suburban Washington. PolitiFact Ohio and PolitiFact National, respectively, rated both claims True.

Our rating

Walker said six of the 10 wealthiest counties, "according to median income, are in and around the Washington, D.C. area."

The latest U.S. census estimates for median household income, for 2013, bear that out. Six of the top 10 counties were in D.C. suburbs in Maryland or Virginia.

We rate Walker's statement True.

To comment on this item, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s web page.


More on Scott Walker

For profiles and stories on Scott Walker and 2016 presidential politics, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Scott Walker page.