Virginia has long been ranked among the wealthiest states in the nation. An overall stable economy, relatively low unemployment rates and an abundance of government jobs help keep residents of the Commonwealth among the highest earners in America.
But when determining the wealthiest individual areas in Virginia, things can get a big complicated as there are many ways to run the numbers. One common method is to analyze census data. Currently, the most recent census data is from 2012. A number of organizations have calculated wealth based on estimates from this data – but the numbers are assigned by county, and even then can vary greatly depending on whether or not they represent median household income or median family income.
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1. Falls Church City (Independent City): median household income $121, 250
This small city only has about 12,000 residents, but with average home prices topping $500,000, an abundance of government jobs, outstanding schools that attract wealthy citizens and close proximity to Washington, D.C., Falls Church City definitely brings in the big bucks.
As an independent city, Falls Church City has held county-equivalent status since its incorporation in 1948 and easily competes with larger counties, despite its small size.
Founded in 1699, the city also offers historic sites like the Cherry Hill House and Farm, as well as easy access to DC with metro lines and nearby interstates.
2. Loudoun County: median household income: $118, 934
Long listed as the wealthiest – and fastest growing - county in the nation, Loudoun dropped to #2 nationally and statewide in 2014. However, It’s only fair to mention that some sources still list Loudoun as the wealthiest, but cite a lower median income than Falls Church City. Located 45 miles from Washington, D.C., Loudoun boasts a long history dating back before the Revolutionary War. Once rural farmland, Loudoun is now home to more than 350,000 residents and a variety of historic downtowns (like Leesburg pictured here), suburban housing and business complexes.
Many communities are a mix of planned suburban developments and quaint downtowns that blend the old and new.
Contributing to Loudoun's economy are developments like One Loudoun, a mixed-use community with retail shops, housing, entertainment and office space that almost creates a self-contained town within a town near Ashburn.
While scenic countryside and beautiful vineyards are still in abundance, this county continues to see rapid growth and a strong economy.
3. Fairfax County: median household income $106,690
Fairfax is not only the third wealthiest county in Virginia, it’s also the 5th wealthiest in the nation by Forbes’ calculations. What makes this ranking even more impressive is that Fairfax is the most populated county in Virginia with more than 1 million residents – and naturally, the more residents, the more variance occurs in the median. So how does a county of 1 million people keep their median income over $100,000? A close proximity to Washington, D.C. doesn’t hurt of course. Fairfax is home to the CIA headquarters at Langley, the National Counterterrorism Center and Office of the Director of National Intelligence – just to name a few.
Likewise, with many Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Fairfax, commercial businesses continue to grow, as well. Tyson’s Corner, another Fairfax financial hotspot, is the county's central business district and in 2008, the New York Times called it the 12th largest employment center in the nation.
And to get an idea of just how much money is moving through Fairfax, In 2014, CNBC’s Inside Wealth listed the Swinks-Mill neighborhood in McLean, near Tyson's Corner, as the 7th wealthiest neighborhood in the nation with a median income of $562,596 (photos not available).
4. Arlington County: median household income $99,255
As Virginia’s 4th wealthiest county, Arlington still holds strong nationally with a Forbes’ ranking of 6th wealthiest in America. The county, comprised of the City of Arlington, is the county closest to DC. Located just south of the Potomac, it’s no surprise that Arlington is driven by government jobs. With governments departments and agencies like the United States Department of Defense at the Pentagon and the Drug Enforcement Agency, Arlington County serves as a close neighbor to DC, both economically and politically.
While, overall, Arlington earns a 4th place ranking, the Washington Business Journal released reports in 2014 based on IRS income data that show three Arlington zip codes made their list of the top 50 wealthiest zip codes in the Washington area with average incomes of $193,292, $183,484 and $171,153 respectively.
Arlington has also been ranked nationally as one of the best places to live. This “urban village” provides a unique blend of homes, apartments and historic neighborhoods alongside retail shopping and businesses. High density areas like Ballston and Rosslyn are especially popular. Great schools, diversity, a strong job market (thanks to so many government jobs), high home values (median $600k) and safety are all part of what makes Arlington so special.
5. Stafford County: median household income $95,927
It’s probably no surprise at this point that the 5th wealthiest county in Virginia is also relatively close to Washington, DC. Stafford, located about 25 miles south of DC, is home to approximately 120,000 residents. Ranked 9th wealthiest county in the nation by Forbes’ with a median household income pushing 6 figures, Stafford can attribute much of its wealth to large employers like Geico and government jobs (including the FBI), as well as county government and school system employment.
Stafford’s history dates back to early Native American civilizations and includes significant colonial and pre-Revolutionary War history, including George Washington’s childhood home, Ferry Farm and the historic Kenmore manor house, in the southern part of the county.
What do you think of the numbers? Do live in one of these counties? Do you think it’s fair to have it on the list? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!