Just as counties are made up of more than towns and cities, the income of county residents depends on more than the local businesses. What follows are the 10 richest counties in America, according to the Average Income by County report from the Census Bureau, which includes the average annual household income from 2006-2010.
These counties don’t just contain Fortune 500 business headquarters (though some of them do), and they're not just appealing vacation destinations (although two are) and it’s not just the acres of upscale retail that at least one county has that’s providing all the jobs and high incomes. In many of the following cases, the high income of a county is directly tied to the nearest commutable city. Although the workplace is becoming ever more virtual and working remotely has never been more possible, commuting to major metropolitan centers is clearly still a factor driving local economies.
By Colleen KanePosted 26 April 2012
Average income: $128,127
America’s first major suburb, located north of New York City, is still the home base for many commuters to Manhattan. The biggest city within the county is Yonkers, the fourth-largest city by population in New York state. Westchester is often cited as an example of where “old money” resides. One display of that is the Gothic Revival mansion Lyndhurst, in Tarrytown. It was once owned by former owner railroad tycoon Jay Gould, who used it as his country house.
Average income: $128,371
Morris County, located about 25 miles from New York City, is another county within easy commuting distance to Manhattan. It includes Harding Township once named one of the richest zip codes in the U.S. by Forbes.
Morris County has numerous Revolutionary war-era historic sites, such as Washington’s Headquarters and Jockey Hollow, where the Continental army endured the brutal winter of 1779-80. The county’s unemployment rate for 2011 was 7.3, nearly 3 points lower than the state average of 10 percent according to the N.J. Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Average income: $128,544
Located just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County’s top employers are Kaiser Permanente, Marin General Hospital and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Marin is the home of George Lucas’ creative workplace and retreat, Skywalker Ranch, as well as tech companies such as Autodesk. It’s also home of such celebrated natural destinations as Muir Woods and Stinson Beach.
Average income: $129,222
Somerset County is another wealthy location in the New York metropolitan area. Area companies include Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, Pfizer and UPS. Somerset includes the picturesque hilly town of Bernardsville, location of the former estates of Jackie Onassis, Mike Tyson and Malcolm Forbes.
Average income: $130,074
The coastal county of Fairfield is the most affluent county in one of the country’s most affluent states. It contains the state’s most populous city, Bridgeport, and wealthy towns like Darien, Greenwich, Westport and New Canaan. Lower Fairfield is known as the Gold Coast, and it is another favorite location for the “old money” elite. Businesses in Fairfield include Duracell, Subway and WWE. The county is the current or former home to many rich and famous personalities such as Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Ron Howard, and Diana Ross.
Average income: $130,723
Hunterdon County is located in the northwestern part of New Jersey between this list’s No. 9 county, Morris, to the northeast, and No. 7, Somerset County, to the east. It’s more rural than its Central Jersey neighbors and is a destination for fishing and hunting white tail deer. In Hunterdon, commuters are split between New York City and Philadelphia.
Average income: $132,662
Fairfax is a bedroom community to Washington, D.C., as well as home to the CIA such companies as Volkswagen, Capital One and Sallie Mae. In addition, the county has three large malls in the unincorporated census-designated place of Tysons Corner: Tysons Corner Center, Tysons Galleria and Fairfax Square. Tysons Corner was the 12th-largest employment center in the country in 2008, the New York Times reported.
Average income: $134,098
Historic Loudoun County, another suburb of Washington, D.C., is the neighbor to this list’s No. 4 county, Fairfax. However, in another 2010 ranking from the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, Loudoun County was the highest-income county in the U.S. for 2010 (with Fairfax still coming in at No. 4 on that ranking). Loudoun is the site of numerous vineyards and the headquarters for Verizon Business, Telos Corporation, MCI and others.
Average income: $134,267
Pitkin County — a mountainous area in the center of Colorado with fewer than 20,000 residents — might not ring a bell. But considering that Pitkin’s county seat is the upscale ski resort city of Aspen, it all makes sense that this is the No. 2 wealthiest county in the U.S. The many luxury ski chalets of Aspen earned it the distinction of being the most expensive real estate market in America, with average home prices at $6 million in 2010.
Average income: $137,811
Let’s just say if all the old men in Nantucket kept all their cash in a bucket, they would need a lot of buckets. The island of Nantucket (along with the two smaller islands making up Nantucket County), located south of Cape Cod off the coast of Massachusetts, is an upscale vacation destination and summer colony. The entire island is an historic district, with many pre-Civil War structures as well as a cobblestone Main Street and the oldest functioning windmill in the country. Tommy Hilfiger, John Kerry and Teresa Heinz, and Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara all have summer homes on Nantucket.