WASHINGTON – Maryland remains among the wealthiest states in the nation, ranking third in median household income, and 15 of the state’s counties rank higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The numbers for 2003, the newest released by the Census Bureau, show that Howard County has the highest median household income in the state and ranks eighth in the nation at $79,455. Los Alamos County, N.M., is first in the nation with $93,089.
Montgomery County is second in Maryland and 11th nationally at $76,546. The national median is $43,318.
There were no significant changes in the income levels of the state, although Carroll County surpassed Frederick as the state’s fourth wealthiest. Calvert had the highest median income gain between 2002 and 2003, adding $2,187.
Baltimore City continues to rank last in the state with a median income of $29,066.
High income doesn’t necessarily mean anything if the cost of living is also high, said Chris Foster, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. While housing prices in Maryland are high, the cost of living has not negated its high income level.
For Maryland, “it’s great news,” he said. “Wages have outpaced the costs.”
The federal government and defense are major economic contributors, Foster said, and that will grow as base closures in other states send thousands of jobs to Maryland.
Howard County has attracted families over the years because of its location between Baltimore and Washington, its good school system, low crime rate and available public services, said Jim Robey, county executive.
The wealth in Maryland simply means there are a lot of residents commanding a higher salary, he said.
High income, however, doesn’t mean there are no problems.
“Land value is escalating,” Robey said, as the demand for homes causes the prices to spike. “What do you do for moderate-priced housing?”
The county is also short on public transportation, he said, which is needed to attract business and workers.
The high income level means more businesses want to move to Howard County, said Pamela Klahr, president of the county’s Chamber of Commerce, and there are more funds to spend on public services and schools.
There is also more money being spent in general, she said, and business in the area is booming.
The wealthiest counties in Maryland also have the most residents working outside the county. Only 38 percent of Howard County residents work in the county – the lowest in the state, according to the Census Bureau.
Washington has the second-highest increase in daytime population in the nation, as more than 400,000 people commute to the city to work.