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Fairfield County Wins Gold Again in Income Race

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Fairfield County has again earned its “Gold Coast” nickname.

The Stamford-Bridgeport corridor is now considered by far the most affluent region in the country, according to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau. The nation’s strongest concentration of high-end incomes is in southwestern Connecticut.

“Maybe it’s time to upgrade from the Gold Coast to the Platinum Coast,” said Joseph McGee, vice president of the Business Council of Fairfield County in Stamford. “We’ve been at or near the top of the list for a long time now.”

The Census Bureau found that 16 percent of households from Stamford to Bridgeport earn income and benefits worth more than $200,000 a year, compared with the next most affluent city, San Jose, Calif., with 13.2 percent of households at that threshold.

Just three other markets are above 10 percent: Los Alamos, N.M., at 12.3 percent; Washington, D.C., at 11.6 percent; and San Francisco-Oakland at 11.0 percent.

“We’ve been a wealthy region since the 1950s, but for decades the major reason was that we were so close to New York, and Fairfield County became a bedroom community for rich investment bankers from the city,” said McGee. “In recent years, it’s flipped around. There has been a migration here of investment banking businesses, financial institutions and companies within the whole information infrastructure.”

McGee, in fact, said, “Now we have more people commuting into Fairfield County than commuting out.”

Paul Timpanelli, president of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said he’s not surprised the region is the nation's wealthiest but said the numbers are “a bit skewed."

“While there are a great deal of people in Fairfield County in the higher income brackets, we also have a number of very poor people as well,” Timpanelli said.

“One of the dichotomies is that in the most affluent region in the country we have one of the poorest cities – Bridgeport,” he said. “We’ve been working on how to solve that for years.”

Timpanelli said, however, he’s more optimistic now than he has been in years. He said he expects Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plans to create new jobs in Bridgeport and other urban areas to succeed.

Meanwhile, Connecticut is considered the second richest state in the nation, with an article on 24/7 Wall St. indicating Connecticut's wealth gets a big boost from commuters who work in New York City and at hedge funds in Fairfield County, among other factors.

Connecticut came in second despite areas with "exceptionally low per capita incomes ... such as the cities of Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport," the article says.

The Census Bureau’s “On Numbers” survey used data from the five-year version of its 2010 American Community Survey to conclude Fairfield County is the most affluent in America. The database contains results for 942 metropolitan and “micropolitan” areas.

More than 4 million U.S. households — 5.4 percent of the national total — are above the $200,000 threshold. The survey indicates that percentages tend to run higher in the largest metropolitan areas, where the cost of living is more expensive. There are 124 markets at the bottom of the survey, in which less than 1 percent of households earn $200,000 annually.

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