Wealthiest Americans live along the coasts: Census

Where do the richest Americans live? Counties in the Pacific, mid-Atlantic and New England regions are safe bets.

WASHINGTON — The richest Americans are clustered together in densely populated counties along the East and West coasts, with a metropolitan area in Connecticut and one in California leading the pack, the Census Bureau reported on Monday.

A large number of counties in the Pacific, mid-Atlantic and New England regions had "high concentrations of high-income households," the census found. "In contrast, the East South Central division's counties tended to have unusually low concentrations of high-income households."

For local governments, a high concentration of wealth can translate into greater property and income tax revenues, which then support public schools and projects such as road repair. A low concentration can equal smaller revenues and greater demands for social services.

The richest 5 percent in the country made $191,469 or more each year from January 2006 through November 2011, according to the census.

The 2007-09 economic recession widened the gap between rich and poor in the United States. The poverty rate stabilized in 2011 for the first time in three years, but the median household income declined by 1.5 percent, annual census poverty data released in September showed.

Monday's census report also looked at metropolitan areas, finding that in six of them, more than one in 10 households had incomes in the top 5 percent.

The area encompassing Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk in Connecticut, had the largest concentration of wealth, with 17.9 percent of households in the upper 5 percent. That area is close to New York City and its Wall Street wealth.

It was followed by the heart of the Silicon Valley, with 15.9 percent of those living in San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, Calif., bringing home some of the highest incomes in the country.

The metropolitan area encompassing Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia had the third-largest concentration of high incomes, at 14.1 percent. In San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., along with Trenton, N.J., New York City and Long Island, 10 percent of households were part of the top 5 percent.

Altogether, the census found that the 50 most populous metropolitan areas, which usually include a city and surrounding suburbs, were home to 71.9 percent of the top 5 percent of households.

Wealth tended to be more concentrated in suburbs than in the cities within a metropolitan area, the census said.

Danville, Va., had the lowest concentration of wealthy people in the country, where they represented 1.1 percent of the population.

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