WASHINGTON – Maryland was one of three states in a statistical tie for highest median household income in 2005, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released Tuesday.
Maryland’s median, or the point at which half the household incomes were higher and half were lower, was $61,592 in 2005, up from $57,424 the year before. New Jersey’s median was higher and Connecticut’s was lower, but the differences between the three were all within the surveys’ margins of error, making them statistically insignificant.
After adjusting for inflation, Maryland’s median household income increased 3.8 percent, but that number is imprecise because of a large difference in sample sizes between the 2005 survey and surveys from years past. Previous surveys did not sample every county in Maryland, said Ed Walnick, chief of the Census Bureau’s Income Surveys department.
Maryland did see real household income growth in 2005, said Maryland Department of Planning economist Mark Goldstein, although the change in sampling might have skewed the dollar amount.
“If you look at other measures of growth in Maryland, job growth, you could come to a conclusion like that,” Goldstein said, adding that the state showed its highest job growth rate in 2005 since 2000.
“It just reinforces the idea that the state was fairly prosperous in 2005, and so it’s not surprising that it would show a real increase in median income,” he said.
Maryland’s high concentration of well-educated workers with high-paying jobs has contributed to its consistent ranking among the most prosperous states in the country, Goldstein said. Its proximity to the federal government in Washington, which makes it a leading recipient of pricey federal contracts is another contributing factor. And finally, Goldstein said, last year’s increase in federal spending probably contributed to Maryland’s rise in household income.
“I think the pie is increasing,” he said, “. . . and Maryland is getting its share.”
A few Maryland counties made the top 10 for median household income nationwide. At $91,184, Howard County’s median income ranked third among counties and independent cities with populations over 250,000. Montgomery County’s $82,187 median ranked sixth.
“We have been at the top, or near the top, for decades, so this is not a surprising place to find ourselves,” said Richard Story, chief executive officer of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
Howard County’s top-ranked school system, business climate and advantageous location between the urban centers of Baltimore and Washington, have been major contributors to the area’s prosperity, Story said.
Montgomery County’s proximity to Washington has always helped its economy, but recently the county has been making it on its own, said Joe Shapiro, county economic development department spokesman. The percentage of residents employed by the federal government has gone down, the county’s technology industry is growing and areas like Silver Spring have been revitalized.
“If you look back 25 years, the dominant factor for Montgomery County employment, and existence really, was the federal government, and that has, particularly over the last 12 years, changed,” Shapiro said.
Maryland’s fiscal picture is not all green. The city of Baltimore, by contrast, had the seventh-lowest median household income in the country, dropping to $32,456. Baltimore residents have lower education levels than Maryland counties with the highest income, which could account in part for the difference in income levels, Goldstein said.
Calvert County had the third-highest income of counties between 65,000 and 249,999 in population. Carroll County was not in the top 10 but had the eighth-lowest poverty rate, at 3.1 percent.
“Calvert County’s kind of up-and-coming, kind of last frontier of southern Maryland,” said the county’s Economic Development Director Linda Vassallo. “I’m not surprised, I’m really not surprised. I mean, we’ve been tracking in this direction for a while.”