The Bridgeport-Stamford metro area has the highest density of high-income households in the nation, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report found that 17.9 percent of households in the area, which covers the same territory as Fairfield County, have incomes in the top 5 percent nationally. That means that roughly 18 in 100 homes in Southwestern Connecticut had earnings above $191,469 per year in 2011 dollars over the five-year span between January 2006 and November 2011.
"It's very rare to have a concentration that high," said Adam Bee, the author of the report and an economist with the Census Bureau.
If all things were equal, and wealth was evenly distributed throughout the nation, each market would boast a roughly 5 percent saturation. But things aren't equal, and the share of local homes earning top dollar is about 3.5 times as high as the national average.
That's not really a surprising finding though, said Bee, who noted that this is the first time the Census Bureau has published this kind of report.
"Suburbs outside of big cities tend to have a higher concentration of wealth," he said Tuesday. On average, large cities had 4.9 percent of households in the top 5 percent, while suburbs within the cities' metro areas had an average of 6.1 percent of the top households, and 1.9 percent of households outside those areas found themselves in the top 5 percent he said.
Many of the areas with the highest density of wealth were concentrated outside the nation's largest cities; the San Jose metro area had the second highest density of high-income households in the nation at 15.9 percent, followed by Washington, D.C., area locations, more California suburbs and additional New York City commuter hubs.
When compared to the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metro area, the Gold Coast had a much higher saturation of the super-wealthy, at 17.9 percent compared to 10 percent. Statistically speaking that's a significant gap, Bee said, but both markets are wealthy enough to find themselves in the top 10 nationwide.
"By comparison, 10 percent is almost half as many high-income people on a per capita basis (as Bridgerport-Stamford), but one with 10 percent would still be at the 98th percentile, so it's still higher than almost all the higher counties. It's just that the ones at the top are kind of spread out," Bee said.
While the Bridgeport-Stamford metro area matches up perfectly with the outline of Fairfield County, most metro areas contain several counties. In a county-by-county analysis of wealth saturation, Bee found that Fairfield County is the No. 9 most densely rich in America, behind four Virginia counties, one California county, two New Jersey counties and one Maryland county.
While Hunterdon and Somerset counties in New Jersey have slightly higher high-income saturations, at 20.1 percent and 18.5 percent, respectively, Fairfield County had marginally higher saturations than both New York City and Westchester County, which fell in line at 17.6 percent and 17.5 percent, respectively.
"If you look by region, then New England, the Pacific, and Mid-Atlantic, there are hyper portions of these populations here," said Bee.
On a state-by-state basis, Connecticut has the third highest concentration of the uber wealthy, at 9.5 percent, behind Washington, D.C. at 11.4 percent and New Jersey at 9.8 percent. But not every county in the Nutmeg State found itself above the 5 percent all-things-equal threshold.
While Fairfield County landed at No. 9 on the county list, and Middlesex County was also listed in the top 100 at No. 86, Windham County, in the northeastern most corner of the state was ranked at No. 673 in the nation, with a high-income saturation of 3.1 percent. It's a far cry from the Gold Coast, but Windham is still in the top 25 percent nationally; there were 42 counties in which there was not a single member of the top 5 percent found.
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