The richest U.S. counties are getting even richer
The billionaire playgrounds of Jackson Hole and Aspen are getting richer, according to new government data, which shows residents of these pricey ski resorts -- along with Manhattan -- commanding the highest personal income in the U.S.
Per-capita income in Teton County, Wyo., tops the list at almost $252,000 on average. Home to the wealthy enclave of Jackson Hole -- where Bill Gates purchased "Buffalo Bill" Cody's former ranch -- is the only county to exceed $250,000 in data going back to 1969.
Pitkin County, Colo., which includes Aspen and its surrounding cities, has long lured millionaires and billionaires to its slopes. Some of the business luminaries who have had financial stakes in the region include Koch Industries' Charles Koch and investor John Paulson.
Pitkin ranks third among U.S. counties in per-capita personal income, at $149,207, according to data from 2018 released earlier this month from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Some west Texas communities such as Midland and Glasscock counties, both part of the booming Permian Basin oil-and gas-producing region, also fared well. Per-capita income rose about 43% in Midland in the decade through 2018, BEA data show.
In Pitkin County, high incomes aren't shared equally among its nearly 18,000 residents, contributing to a shortage of affordable housing. About two-thirds of the workers in Aspen and nearby Snowmass commute into the area, often from as far as 75 minutes away, said Karen Peirson, chair of the Aspen Board of Realtors.
And it's no wonder, as Aspen's year-to-date median price for a single-family home hit $6 million, data from the Realtors group show. The median price of a condo or town home is about $1.8 million.
There seems to be no let-up in demand this year, Peirson said. The community is trying to to tackle home-affordability with a program capping rents and price-appreciation of some condos and houses.
Across America, total personal income increased in 3,019 counties, or 97% of the total, and decreased in just 2.9%, according to estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That includes wages, proprietors' income, dividends, interest, rents, and government benefits by county residents.
On a per-capita income basis, which factors in the change in population, 2018 marks the largest share of counties with a positive increase since 1981, based on a Bloomberg analysis.
In 2009, during the last U.S. recession, per capita incomes declined in more than 2,000 counties. The midpoint per-capita income among all counties was $41,977 last year, with the Southeast claiming about half of all counties in the poorest 50% of communities.
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