Where the nation's highest earners live
February 13, 2013 8:13 AM   Subscribe

The Washington Post has posted a clickable county map of the United States, illustrating the percentage of households in the top 5% of national income (based on data from the US Census Bureau).
posted by msbubbaclees (79 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
As you probably expected, it looks like every other map of the country that divides along political, religious, or idealogical lines. The populated coastal regions are a different color than the rest of the map.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, actually big cities are different colors than the rest of the map. Which...yeah. CEOs and investment bankers don't typically live in small towns or farms.
posted by DU at 8:21 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


New Jersey! Huh.
posted by Glinn at 8:24 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now to overlay this with a map of Starbucks densities...
posted by phong3d at 8:26 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, this is a map of where not to move if I want to have more class than everyone else?
posted by hanoixan at 8:29 AM on February 13, 2013


Top 5% Nationwide is a stupid stupid measurement.

Painting every county throughout the US as if it's on the same bell curve with regards to income is a gross oversimplification that does nothing but detract from any conversation about ... anything.
posted by DigDoug at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


San Francisco isn't part of the US apparently. Missing data or political statement?
posted by Blue Meanie at 8:32 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The top three are suburbs of Washington DC.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:34 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting to see the areas I wouldn't have thought of--like, what's up with northwest North Dakota?

DigDoug, if you click on an individual county, it does show what the income level is for the 5% of that county and state, so you can see how it compares to the national level.
posted by msbubbaclees at 8:35 AM on February 13, 2013


Heh, I'd like to see this done as a graph with percent in the top 5% on one axis and percent voted for Obama on the other.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:35 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As you probably expected, it looks like the highest percentage of the richest people in the country live closest to (whilst still remaining in the suburbs) Washington DC.

Big Government. It's good business when you can get it.
posted by three blind mice at 8:36 AM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I grew up in Loudoun, and live in Fairfax. I must be rich as hell! (checks under couch cushions)
posted by FatherDagon at 8:36 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


@kid Charlemagne - and what would you expect that to show?
posted by zeoslap at 8:37 AM on February 13, 2013


Chocolate Pickle: "The top three are suburbs of Washington DC."

Of the top 10, 6 are suburbs of DC.
posted by stbalbach at 8:38 AM on February 13, 2013


Painting every county throughout the US as if it's on the same bell curve with regards to income is a gross oversimplification that does nothing but detract from any conversation about ... anything.

You wanted a clickable map at an individual human level?
posted by DU at 8:39 AM on February 13, 2013


Of the top 10, 6 are suburbs of DC.

Densely populated suburbs as well so the high percentages of people with high incomes is a lot of people with high incomes.

Overpaid government employees? Would anyone on a government scale earn enough to put them in the top 5%?
posted by three blind mice at 8:40 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Overpaid government employees? Would anyone on a government scale earn enough to put them in the top 5%?

I'm gonna go ahead and assume defense contractor lobbyists and the like.
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


County I grew up in: 2% of households in the top 5%.
County I live in now: 4% of households in the top 5%.

Movin' on up motherfuckers!
posted by ND¢ at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm gonna go ahead and assume defense contractor lobbyists and the like.

These people are paid by defense contractors, not the government.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


what's up with northwest North Dakota?

That's where the Bakken shale oil is.

Other interesting spots in otherwise out of the way areas:

Borden county, TX of Borden condensed milk fame (population 641)
King county, TX (oil!) pop 286

And the rich folks with ski houses:
Summit County, UT (Park City)
Pitkin County, CO (Aspen)
Teton County, WY (Jackson Hole)
posted by dabug at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna go ahead and assume defense contractor lobbyists and the like.

These people are paid by defense contractors, not the government.


And that makes them ineligible to be in the top 5%...why?
posted by DU at 8:47 AM on February 13, 2013


San Francisco isn't part of the US apparently. Missing data or political statement?

You have to use the map's +/- zoom feature, not your browser's, to get enough resolution to select SF.

San Francisco County, Calif.
Ranked 23 of 3,143 counties

46,439 households, or 14% of households, are in the national top 5% of income.

Where top 5% of income starts
U.S.
$191,469

California
$225,799

San Francisco County
$250,001

This county's top 5% accounts for 24% of the county's income.
posted by mosk at 8:48 AM on February 13, 2013


County I grew up in: 18% of households in the top 5%. My family was so not in that 18%.
posted by octothorpe at 8:50 AM on February 13, 2013


Would anyone on a government scale earn enough to put them in the top 5%?

Sure. Two long-serving GS-12s or higher living together, or two majors/lcdrs or higher living together.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


(do dual military couples get two BAHs?)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2013


I think it has more to do with the nature of government-related jobs. The DC suburbs have a lot of direct federal employees, a lot of defense engineers, a lot of biologists (NIH), a lot of lawyers. None of these people are making millions, but they all get paid enough that a married couple is in the top 5%. They also have good job security, so there aren't a lot of unemployed folks. Also, unlike other major cities the DC suburbs have a relative dearth of large universities, which can bring down averages by attracting tens of thousands of broke students.
posted by miyabo at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2013


I'm gonna go ahead and assume defense contractor lobbyists and the like.

OK, the stupid thing about all this is that "household" can refer to any number of people. I, like many people in DC, live in a group house with other working professionals. There are four of us, each making between $40,000 (nonprofit worker) and $90,000 (mid-level federal employee), which means our total household income is well over $200,000--putting us easily into the top 5%--yet I can't get the slumlord company that manages our place to fix the toilet in the bathroom that I share with a roommate. My rent is in the high three digits. I am not rich.
posted by psoas at 8:54 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


If every map were more like this one of New Jersey...
Jersey Map

Previously
posted by otto42 at 8:59 AM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


what's in summit county utah?
posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:59 AM on February 13, 2013


Also it helps that a lot of these counties are tiny. I don't think it makes a lot of sense to compare counties when some of the top counties have 40k people and others have millions.
posted by miyabo at 9:00 AM on February 13, 2013


Thanks Mosk, I didn't even see the zoom option.
posted by Blue Meanie at 9:01 AM on February 13, 2013


I'm assuming that if you don't file taxes together, you don't count as a household, regardless of how many of you live in the same home.
posted by asperity at 9:01 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


what's in summit county utah?

Ski resorts, I would imagine.
posted by ghharr at 9:03 AM on February 13, 2013


FAIRFAX, VA is also home of ...NRA, whose president, recently saying silly thibngs on tv, makes some 950 thou per year...nice work if you can get it
posted by Postroad at 9:04 AM on February 13, 2013


San Francisco isn't part of the US apparently. Missing data or political statement?

Neither is New York.

(Seriously, though, both of these counties are really small in size. San Francisco is popularly said to be 49 square miles but is actually 47; New York County is just the borough of Manhattan and is 20 or so.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:06 AM on February 13, 2013


I'm assuming that if you don't file taxes together, you don't count as a household, regardless of how many of you live in the same home.

Hm. Guess I was thrown off by it being a Census Bureau report, as their definition is different from the IRS's.
posted by psoas at 9:08 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Park City is in Summit County. It's just east of Salt Lake City.
posted by troika at 9:11 AM on February 13, 2013


San Francisco is popularly said to be 49 square miles but is actually 47

And a sixth of that is airport!
posted by aubilenon at 9:12 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


My home county (in NJ) is in the top ten, which has me flabbergasted. I seriously don't know where, in my county, the rich people live. Apparently they are very skilled at camouflage.
posted by chowflap at 9:16 AM on February 13, 2013


psoas: Guess I was thrown off by it being a Census Bureau report, as their definition is different from the IRS's.

Good call, not like I looked it up ("assuming"). Maybe some of the DC-area numbers are skewed by nonfamily group housing arrangements. That's sure not the case with central NJ, though!

chowflap: Apparently they are very skilled at camouflage.

Their houses usually are shielded from public view by lots of trees, yeah.
posted by asperity at 9:20 AM on February 13, 2013


And a sixth of that is airport!

San Francisco owns the airport but the airport isn't in San Francisco.

(But Golden Gate Park and the Presidio add up to 4 square miles.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:21 AM on February 13, 2013


None of these maps ever have a COLA adjustment. I suppose I'll have to make one myself when I have time, sheesh.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:24 AM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I grew up in Loudoun, and live in Fairfax. I must be rich as hell! (checks under couch cushions)

I live in Loudoun. The problem here is that those higher incomes go to higher housing and other expenses. If we had our same household income and we lived in the rural Georgia county where my parents live, then heck yeah, we'd be living large in a mansion with lots of land, rolling in some fine automobiles. We are lucky enough to own a house here, on a tiny lot, and we drive Hyundais. But of course, there are no jobs in my parents' county in rural Georgia.
posted by candyland at 9:29 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously, though, both of these counties are really small in size.

As mentioned upthread, to resolve Manhattan or San Francisco, you need to do some awkward zooming and dragging with the map's nav tools.

like, what's up with northwest North Dakota?

Insane oil drilling boom.
posted by aught at 9:31 AM on February 13, 2013


None of these maps ever have a COLA adjustment.

Yeah, St. Tammany Parish only shows 6% in the 5% but it is truly the enclave of rich pond scum who ran from the crime and flooding in New Orleans. The cost of living makes earning $100K here similar to earning $200K in San Francisco.
posted by localroger at 9:32 AM on February 13, 2013


What will skew the map is that is based upon % not absolute numbers. I suspect that the DC suburbs have a high % because they have alot of technocrats living in them - but the general population is lower.

BUT the % breakout may be a good predictor of voter behavior - it would be neat to see how this overlays with the last Presidential election.
posted by helmutdog at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2013


I was thinking that a DC suburb might have a large number of national 5%ers who wouldn't make it into NY's top 5% (for example), but it looks like their local data never shows any county having a "county 5% starting point" above $250,001, which I feel like must be a mistake.
posted by jermsplan at 9:40 AM on February 13, 2013


BUT the % breakout may be a good predictor of voter behavior - it would be neat to see how this overlays with the last Presidential election.


Not terribly well. Within a certain county or state, the rich tended to vote more Republican and the poor more Democrat, but comparing across geographies tends to scramble this. Think of desperately poor Appalachian counties going strongly for Romney, and wealthy Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic suburbs voting for Obama.

People perceive their wealth based on the environment they live in, not a national statistic. You'd really need to go down to the precinct level to see rich areas and poor areas start to line up along red/blue lines.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:40 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


My home county (in NJ) is in the top ten, which has me flabbergasted. I seriously don't know where, in my county, the rich people live. Apparently they are very skilled at camouflage.

Being in top 5% doesn't provide lifestyle that most people think as of rich. Top 5% means dentist married to an engineer, attorney and a teacher, etc. So the rich people you don't see are just your neighbors or your friends' parents. Most top 5% earners have a house (or McMansion), 2 cars, 401K, student loans and a mortgage.

The mega-rich is much smaller proportion of the population. It's the top 0.01% or 0.001% that have private jets, real mansions, estates and lots of passive income.
posted by zeikka at 9:57 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


These are also areas where there are some really great museums.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2013


Yes, but none of the other students in my high school lived in a McMansion -- my friends and I were all solidly suburban, houses built in the 60s (this was in the 80s), and many of my peers lived in low-income row housing. It's just weird. There must be some other part of the county where they live, work, and play. And they surely send their kids to private school.
posted by chowflap at 10:22 AM on February 13, 2013


What's in Hunterdon County, New Jersey?
posted by steambadger at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2013


Not to pile on, but at $200k we're talking an average professional middle-aged couple with two cars and a nice house and retirement savings. They couldn't afford a boat or a summer house or a BMW. They could pay for their kids' college, but they couldn't afford to send them to private school. That's rich compared to average for the country, it's certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it's not "rich" rich.
posted by miyabo at 10:32 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Being in top 5% doesn't provide lifestyle that most people think as of rich. Top 5% means dentist married to an engineer, attorney and a teacher, etc. So the rich people you don't see are just your neighbors or your friends' parents. Most top 5% earners have a house (or McMansion), 2 cars, 401K, student loans and a mortgage.

But that's the problem: you have to be a two-income professional family to have the kind of economic security associated with the middle class. Being in the top 5% means you are being paid both too much and too little: too much, because your household is in the top 5% say $150K and the bottom 5% is probably $15K and too little because you shouldn't have to have two incomes to make it and being middle class isn't just about having a certain amount of excess cash, but security and social position. And then the difference between professional incomes and "working class" incomes couldn't be more stark. Starting wage in an auto plant is now $15/hr and auto-workers were supposed to be the foundation of the 20th century american middle class.

But this divide, between the .1% and the top 5%, and 5% and the bottom 50% are what define US politics. The idea of the 1% vs. the 99% never actually made any sense. With 401Ks and inflation in college tuition, the interests of the 5% have been welded to that of the 1%. A sea change in US society will come when the 5% agree to take an income cut in order to fund the building of common resources for everyone, not the 1%. But of course, the 5% feel like they are barely making it...
posted by ennui.bz at 10:40 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


My wife worked as a nannie in Westchester county in New York while she was in college. The Wall Street lawyer she worked for said they had very little crime there and in Greenwich CT because there were retired "family" living there. He said no one in their right mind broke into a house with a chance that it belonged to someone who wouldn't call the police, but Vinny and Sal back in the old neighborhood.
posted by Ber at 10:44 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


miyabo: "Not to pile on, but at $200k we're talking an average professional middle-aged couple with two cars and a nice house and retirement savings. [...] That's rich compared to average for the country, it's certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it's not "rich" rich."

Apparently it's in the top 5%, which either suggests it's not very average anything, or there are far fewer professional middle-aged couples out there than I expected. Either way they're doing much, much better than your average household in that scenario.
posted by empyrean at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's in Hunterdon County, New Jersey?

The ones in the top 5% are likely employed by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies there, or else are extreme commuters who like living on what until recently was still farmland. (Though there's still a fair bit of farmland in Hunterdon County.)
posted by asperity at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2013


A sea change in US society will come when the 5% agree to take an income cut in order to fund the building of common resources for everyone, not the 1%.

The gap between the 5% at rock bottom and the top 5% is a heckofalot easier to bridge than the gap between the 5% and the 1%.

The top 5% knows they're being screwed, but are looking the wrong direction as to who the guilty parties are.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:01 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently it's in the top 5%, which either suggests it's not very average anything, or there are far fewer professional middle-aged couples out there than I expected. Either way they're doing much, much better than your average household in that scenario.

So in places like DC (and San Francisco and NYC), you pretty much have to have two professional incomes in order to buy a home, have two cars, and still be able to put some money away for retirement, maybe take a vacation every now and then, etc. But in other parts of the country -- say, Houston, Dallas, Denver, even parts of suburban Chicago -- you can own a nice home, have two cars, put money away for retirement, and maybe take a few vacations on ONE professional income, putting you under that "magical" 5% number.

This is why COLA really has to be part of these calculations. For the amount of money my husband and I make in DC, we could have a house with twice the square footage in, say, Houston. We'd pay significantly less for daycare. And that's HOUSTON -- a city where two professional people can make a nice living -- not, say, rural Georgia. Indeed, the cost of living difference is so stark that it's conceivable that we could go to one income, and thus not need to pay for daycare. This is why daycare is cheaper there, you know? The demand isn't as high.

In other words, it's not that you now have to be in the 5% to have that middle class American dream. If you want the middle class American dream in DC, San Francisco, and NYC, though, you really do.
posted by devinemissk at 11:07 AM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Not really surprised to see my husbands home town, Falls Church, on the top of that list. I've always wondered if it's small size, both geographically and population wise, skew the data. Its 2 square miles and has about 12,000 people. It tends to top public school lists also.
posted by fontophilic at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2013


None of these maps ever have a COLA adjustment.

This is why my husband and I are moving out of the DC area.* We make plenty of money between us - not top 5% money, but far more than either of our families ever made, and we'll never be able to own a home in any neighborhood in the DC area I'd want to live in. We've been casually perusing home listings in other decent-sized metro areas, and the staggeringly huge price difference makes me want to barf every minute of the day.

*We've added Pittsburgh and Minneapolis to the list. MPLS is the current front-runner. Thanks, guys!
posted by timetoevolve at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2013


But this divide, between the .1% and the top 5%, and 5% and the bottom 50% are what define US politics. The idea of the 1% vs. the 99% never actually made any sense.

Well, it might not be the ideal dividing line, but it conveys its idea clearly, and it's useful shorthand for "capitalists versus laborers" when you're talking to someone with a Fox-News-level understanding of Marx.
posted by Mayor West at 11:18 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like the 0% counties. I'm looking for contrasts. King County, TX (11%) is surrounded by Foard County (0%) and Kent County (0%). That's the only example I can find. Goochland County, Va. (14%) comes pretty close to Buckingham, County (0%), but they don't quite touch.

Then there are 1%s, and there are more examples (Summit, UT (14%)--Daggett; Pitkin (14%), CO--Lake; Los Alamos, NM (15%)--Rio Arriba; Williamson, TN (14%)--Bedford, Marshall, Hickman, Dickson (Watch out! You're surrounded!).

Then there are insulated counties: places that are buffered by similarly prosperous counties. Not a lot of these. Prince William, Va. has dark green neighbors on all sides (Westchester, NY would almost be there without the Bronx).

Then there's the opposite, what about 0% counties with the most amount of 0% on all sides? A few places like that in WV and KY. Iron County, Mo. is pretty bad. Schley County, GA is pretty well insulated from any bothersome prosperity.
posted by dgaicun at 11:55 AM on February 13, 2013


Douglas County Nebraska (Omaha): 9,405 households, or 5% of households, are in the national top 5% of income. Okay, Warren Buffett and who else?
posted by Cranberry at 12:06 PM on February 13, 2013


It's kind of misleading to use percentage of households; naturally, low-density areas (e.g. Wyoming) are going to seem like Wow! All the rich people live there!, when really it's just Dick Cheney, whoever Dick Cheney's shooting in the face these days, and a whole lot of not much else.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:18 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


(That said, I'm kinda surprised Montana's so light.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:21 PM on February 13, 2013


Of the top 10, 6 are suburbs of DC.

That's why you don't see much urgency inside the Beltway about the economy. It may be a recession in the rest of the country, but it's not a recession in DC.
posted by jonp72 at 12:59 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, the stupid thing about all this is that "household" can refer to any number of people. I, like many people in DC, live in a group house with other working professionals.

Do you file your taxes together? (I.e. one of your roommates filing as Head of Household and claiming the rest of you as dependents or something?) Unless you do, you are probably not being counted as a "household" for income purposes, because I'm nearly certain that WaPo is using IRS (or IRS-derived) stats for income.

I think you can come up with an argument that these days it's more telling to look at individual rather than "household" incomes, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:36 PM on February 13, 2013


That's why you don't see much urgency inside the Beltway about the economy.

None of these suburbs are inside the beltway and the rich people that live in them work in things like the World Bank, defense contractors and as lobbyists on K St. The money is in INFLUENCING the low paid government workers with favors, laws and rhetoric, not in Governmenting itself.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:35 PM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna go ahead and assume defense contractor lobbyists and the like.

Lawyers. It's the industry that D.C. and the surrounding area has and it tends to pay well.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:57 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


1 percent of households in top 5 percent of national income

Yay! We're One Percenters! And so is...almost the entire rest of the nation.
posted by byanyothername at 3:06 PM on February 13, 2013


Here's the salary scale for civil service workers in DC (opens PDF). Two GS 13s married to each other will fall within the top 5 percent. Here's a list of GS 13 job openings so you get a sense of who these people are.
posted by hhc5 at 3:16 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


None of these suburbs are inside the beltway

Uh ... all of Arlington County is, most of Alexandria City is, all of Falls Church City is, most (by population) of Fairfax County is. A lot of the expensive MD suburbs are inside as well, although I'm not as familiar with the county borders up there. But I assume that Chevy Chase and Silver Spring probably are responsible for a big part of the MD suburban counties' green-ness.

The Beltway is pretty big. It circumscribes something like 2M people and 1/5th the area of Rhode Island, IIRC. There are a lot of people who live in it who don't have anything to do directly with government.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2013


Useful! Wondering about Clackamas, OR, I discover Lake Oswego.

Conveniently this map also shows where not to be when the zombies arise ... better Time Machine that.
posted by Twang at 3:29 PM on February 13, 2013


Douglas County Nebraska (Omaha): 9,405 households, or 5% of households, are in the national top 5% of income. Okay, Warren Buffett and who else?

Mutual of Omaha Insurance, ConAgra, Qwest, TD Ameritrade, Union Pacific Rail and the West Corp. Those are all at least Fortune 1000s.
posted by nathan_teske at 3:36 PM on February 13, 2013


OK, the stupid thing about all this is that "household" can refer to any number of people.
Indeed, why is talking about "household income" so popular? It's hard to come up with a case in which household income is a particularly important metric. If you're looking at human economic well-being, then some sort of measure of household disposable purchasing power is probably what you want, lest you mistakenly conclude that a parent of three making $40K is in much better shape than a person with no dependents making $30K. If you're looking at the state of the job market, then individual income is probably what you want - e.g. if you look at income inequality, surely employers didn't deserve much credit when household incomes rose due to increasing popularity of multiple-earner households, nor much blame when household incomes fell due to changes in marriage and divorce rates.
posted by roystgnr at 3:41 PM on February 13, 2013


jonp72: "That's why you don't see much urgency inside the Beltway about the economy. It may be a recession in the rest of the country, but it's not a recession in DC."

Have you seen what congressional staffers make? A legislative assistant can make under $30,000 a year. Many of them work enough hours that they approach violation of minimum wage laws at this salary.

Given the astronomically-increasing costs of living in DC, many congressional staffers do not earn enough money to reasonably cover their expenses.

Many congressional staffers (and congresspeople themselves) are wealthy enough to not actually need their paycheck at all. This is a far bigger problem from what you're describing.

While the beltway might be a good place for a professional to enjoy a stable and fruitful career, a lot of the extravagant wealth is being pumped in from elsewhere, in an attempt to gain influence in national politics.

Also, the scenario of two married GS-14s seems somewhat far-fetched. GS-14s are generally high-level (and late-career) management positions, there aren't many of them, and they can be quite demanding. If you have two spouses both working in a GS-14, odds are that they don't have kids.
You've got to spend a lot of years climbing the ladder to that level. I just don't see where a family could possibly fit into that scenario.

Also, once you climb the ranks high enough to earn a GS-14 salary, odds are that the private sector's compensation for similar positions is much more generous. The federal government seems to pay comparatively poorly at the entry and upper levels, but tends to be very attractive for mid-career folks. The head of my (legislative) agency makes $172,000 a year, and has duties that are comparable to the CEO of a large corporation. $172k is very good money, but it's a pittance compared to what the private sector would pay for that kind of position.

Truthfully, I really don't know where DC's money comes from. I sort of doubt that it's the civil service...
posted by schmod at 5:11 PM on February 13, 2013


My guess is DC's money comes from non-working rich folks parked so they can watch the votes their money buys.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:41 PM on February 13, 2013


miyabo: "Not to pile on, but at $200k we're talking an average professional middle-aged couple with two cars and a nice house and retirement savings. They couldn't afford a boat or a summer house or a BMW. They could pay for their kids' college, but they couldn't afford to send them to private school. That's rich compared to average for the country, it's certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it's not "rich" rich."

No, they can afford the BMW. Or maybe they can't afford them, but they sure as hell drive them around town, because I used to drive by and park next to them. And Lexuses. Hell, I was considering a BMW, and I only made like 30k a year at the time. (I decided to get a Subaru instead.)

Okay, truthfully it depends on where you are. If you compare Santa Clara county to Johnson County, KS, the rents in KS are lower. About half. But we're only talking like 10k-15k a year annually extra. Taxes are likely a bigger chunk of change, but its not like California is taking your tax dollars and burning them, so you're presumably getting some kind of value out of that.
posted by pwnguin at 8:45 PM on February 13, 2013


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