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Douglas Counts Laurels

Douglas counts laurels as 2nd-richest county in U.S.

Douglas County is the second-richest county in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday. The median income for the south metro county came in at a whopping $92,732, just shy of the $93,089 median income for Los Alamos County, N.M. 

Colorado is the ninth-wealthiest state with a median income of $49,248, compared with the national median at $43,318. 

"That's fairly decent for Colorado considering we have lagged in job growth compared to other states that we typically compete with in incomes and job growth," state demographer Elizabeth Garner said. 

It's nothing new for Douglas County and its population of more than 237,000. The county, which also is perennially one of the fastest-growing in the nation, was ranked the richest county in the U.S. in the late 1990s. 

"I think it's because we have a high percentage of people who own their own businesses throughout the county," said Al Block, a developer and chairman of the Castle Rock Economic Development Council. "I think it's just a natural evolution that has happened partly because it's a great area to live in, and Castle Rock, Parker and Lone Tree are all great communities that provide terrific police, fire protection, road, sewer and water services." 

With high incomes comes a high cost of living, and affordable housing has become an issue. 

"In Parker, they have been able to insert affordable housing within the communities," Block said. "Castle Rock is certainly looking at doing that. We do have some affordable housing as a result of housing built 30 to 40 years ago, but we're trying to add to that. 

Its not an impossible task despite that we have a higher than average income." According to other census figures released Tuesday, the average number of school-age children (ages 5 to 17) living in poverty continues to rise steadily in Colorado. 

In 2003, the year of the latest data, 11.6 percent of school-age children were living in poverty in the state, compared with the national average of 16.1 percent. 

Colorado's increase is approaching the peak of 13.9 percent of school-age children living in poverty that was measured in 1993, when the Census Bureau began tracking the data. The lowest measured average of 10 percent was in 2001. 

The states with the wealthiest wage earners line the East Coast. Connecticut had the country's highest wage with a median household income of $56,409. New Jersey was second, at $56,356, followed by Maryland, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

The good life in Douglas County... 

Suburban area's $92,732 median household income ranks it No. 2 in country 

Keeping up with the Joneses in Douglas County isn't easy. 
The county ranks No. 2 in the nation with a median household income of $92,732, close behind Los Alamos County, N.M., and ahead of Loudoun County, Va., the Census Bureau said Tuesday. The bureau cited figures from 2003, the latest data available. 

The south metro county, situated between Denver and Colorado Springs, actually lost ground in 2003, slipping from the No. 1 spot in 2002, the data show. Local officials attributed that to an increase of affordable housing, a trend they see as a positive. 

"We believe more diversity in housing is good news," said Wendy Holmes, public affairs director for Douglas County. "This means more people who work here can live here." 

The median household income for the nation was $43,318. Colorado's median income of $49,248 was No. 9 in the state rankings. 

Statewide, Elbert County - at $66,507 - was second behind Douglas, with Broomfield County next at $63,883. 

Costilla County ranked last in Colorado with a median household income of $21,640. 

Other metro-area counties include Jefferson ($58,786), Boulder ($56,956), Arapahoe ($55,780), Adams ($48,658) and Denver ($40,883). 

The household income gap between Douglas and Costilla counties - the richest and the poorest statewide - narrowed in the latest year. 

The Census Bureau report examined all counties across the country, not just the larger ones. That explains why Douglas County, with a population of roughly 250,000 people, continues to appear so prominently on the national list. 

"It's not a surprise," said David Mitchem, president of the Castle Rock Economic Development Council in Douglas County. "But it's still gratifying to see." 

Officials in fast-growing Douglas County cited a strong school system and a concentration of Denver Tech Center workers earning handsome salaries as a couple of the factors behind the lofty income levels. Douglas County is home to Castle Rock and Parker in addition to Castle Pines and Highlands Ranch. 

Los Alamos County recorded median household income of $93,089 in 2003. Buffalo County, S.D., languished at the other end, at $17,003. 

More economic figures surfaced Tuesday, showing that Denver and the rest of the state stack up quite well with other U.S. regions when looking at average wages. 

Denver County in the first quarter ranked 33rd among 322 large counties across the country, the same spot it occupied a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Labor said. 

The average weekly wage, according to figures released in October, was $976 in Denver County in the first quarter, up 3.8 percent. 

Colorado's average weekly wage of $787 made the state No. 11 in the country, the report showed. 

Colorado also came in 11th last year. 

While reports about how much money Coloradans take home remain relatively positive, other figures suggest many residents may have a different view as wages barely keep pace with inflation. 

The Consumer Price Index for the Denver, Boulder and Greeley area increased by 8 percent between 2000 and 2004, while the average weekly wage grew by 8.4 percent during that period, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said. 

And more people live in poverty now than in 2000. That year, the poverty rate in Colorado was 8.7 percent, according to the Census Bureau and the American Community Survey. In 2004, it was 11.1 percent. 

The 2.4 percent increase was the fourth-highest in the nation for that period, trailing only Mississippi (3.4), Idaho (3.1) and Nevada (2.7). 

The richest and poorest 

• Counties and states with the highest and lowest median incomes in 2003, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau: 


Top 10 

County Income 

Los Alamos County, N.M. $93,089 
Douglas County 92,732 
Loudoun County, Va. 89,890 
Hunterdon County, N.J. 84,016 
Fairfax County, Va. 82,481 
Hamilton County, Ind. 80,691 
Morris County, N.J. 79,977 
Howard County, Md. 79,455 
Somerset County, N.J. 77,988 
Montgomery County, Md. 76,546 

Bottom 10 

County Income 

Wilcox County, Ala. $19,524 
Hancock County, Tenn. 19,228 
Starr County, Texas 19,127 
Holmes County, Miss. 19,057 
Clay County, Ky. 18,724 
Zavala County, Texas 18,553 
McDowell County, W.Va. 18,344 
Ziebach County, S.D. 17,753 
Owsley County, Ky. 17,344 
Buffalo County, S.D. 17,003 


Top 10 

State Income 

Conn. $56,409 
N.J. 56,356 
Md. 54,302 
Mass. 52,713 
N.H. 52,409 
Alaska 52,391 
Minn. 50,750 
Va. 50,028 
Colo. 49,248 
Del. 48,770 

Bottom 10 

State Income 

Tenn. $37,925 
Ky. 36,663 
Ala. 36,131 
Okla. 35,634 
N.M. 35,091 
Mont. 34,449 
La. 33,792 
Ark. 33,445 
W.Va. 32,967 
Miss. 32,397 

Source: The Associated Press 

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