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Turn in your Tesla and cancel your reservation at Minibar: The Washington area might not be as wealthy as our high-flying lifestyles would suggest. According to the New Republic‘s Nate Cohn, the media has been measuring Washington’s relative affluence all wrong.
But median income doesn’t tell the whole story, since it only looks at the average person—the fiftieth percentile. That’s useful for measuring broad-based prosperity, but the wealth of a superrich one percent or desperate poverty doesn’t move median income by one dollar.
Washington does so well in median income because the wealth is spread around more equally here. According to Cohn, a better measure of the kind of lavish wealth suggested in Fox News’ b-roll of steakhouses and wineries would be per capita income. By that measure, the D.C. region lags behind the San Jose and San Francisco metro areas, and just barely edges out Boston’s.
While Cohn hasn’t fallen for D.C.’s Boomtown rap, he still thinks Washington doesn’t make anything:
But one could argue, if so inclined, that the region is still too rich. Why should a metro area largely supported by federal tax dollars possess wealth comparable to more productive cities like New York and San Francisco?
Cohn’s claim aside, Washington residents don’t get money just for living where they do. Unlike other Americans we could name.
Burning money photo by Shutterstock