Region still the richest
Updated 11:31 am, Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Despite pockets of poverty in its urban centers, the Bridgeport, Stamford and Danbury region remained the wealthiest place to live in the U.S. last year, thanks to rising dividend income, increased benefits and a rebounding stock market, a new report said Monday.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metropolitan region, which also includes Danbury, had the highest individual income of any such area in the country at $78,081 per capita -- nearly twice the national average of $41,560 for 2011.
There was also positive news on wages, where the average income per job increased to $81,243 in 2011, the highest average ever recorded.
But for some, it sure doesn't feel like this is the richest place in the country.
"It's all relative," said Paul Schatz, president and chief investment officer for Woodbridge-based investment adviser Heritage Capital. "We may be rich in income, but our economy is crummy in Connecticut ... The cost of living is incredibly high and taxes are painfully overwhelming."
While those burdens eat up income gains for many, the high costs can also make it a struggle for families to climb out of poverty. Almost 24 percent of Bridgeport's population has been living below the poverty level for three years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For a family of four, the income threshold is $23,021.
More InformationThe rankings Some per capita income rankings for 2011 1. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk $78,081 3. San Francisco-Oakland, Calif. $61,395 7. Boston $57,893 12. Hartford $53,081 18. New Haven $48,978. 27. Houston-Sugarland, Texas $47,612 100. Charlotte, N.C. $40,223 366. McAllen-Ediniburg, Texas $21,620 Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
In Stamford, 11.1 percent were in poverty, and in Danbury, it was 13.9 percent. In all, 9.4 percent, or 85,822 people in the county were living below the poverty line.
The metro region with the second-highest per capita income level, Midland, Texas, had 11.7 percent of its residents living below the poverty level. Midland's per capita income was $65,173.
While Bridgeport-Stamford is the wealthiest metropolitan region, Fairfield is not the wealthiest county. That distinction goes to New York County, better known as Manhattan, where per capita income was more than $120,000.
Elsewhere in Connecticut, the Hartford region ranked 12th at $53,081 per capita, while New Haven came in at No. 18, with $48,978.
The Bridgeport-Stamford ranking isn't a surprise, with the western end of the county filled with the heads of major global companies such as Jeffrey Immelt, of General Electric Co., entertainment icons such as Ron Howard and a bevy of investment legends like Ron Dalio, of Bridgewater Associates.
Four Greenwich residents who were on this year's Forbes list of wealthiest Americans have a combined net worth of $27 billion, and the region has been first or second in per capita income for at least a decade.
When the income for all residents of the county was counted, more than $72 billion was earned in 2011. The regional figure was also bolstered by the slow growth in population, which was 0.82 percent between 2010 and 2011, lower than the national rate.
Per capita income is calculated by taking the total income and dividing it by the total population. If there is more income and less population, per capita income increases.
In Fairfield County, it's the market that appears to be fueling much of the wealth, though wages did show some strength in 2011, according to the BEA report.
Fairfield County derived 22 percent of its income from dividends and interest in 2011, while the nation as a whole only got about 18 percent from those sources.
Schatz and Carolyn Frzop, first vice president and financial adviser in the Fairfield office of Janney Montgomery Scott, both said low interest rates have chased wealthy investors into high dividend stocks during the past few years.