Maryland residents were the wealthiest in the nation last year as the Washington region saw its median incomes rise, even as the rest of the country faltered under the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Monday.

The median household income in Maryland was nearly $71,000, slightly ahead of New Jersey. Virginia came in eighth, with a median income of about $61,000, and D.C. was 12th in median income, at nearly $58,000, the census reported in its annual American Community Survey.

Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia communities bolstered their states' incomes, the census reported. Median incomes from Loudoun to Prince George's counties grew from 2007 until 2008, the Census Bureau said. The wealthiest county was Loudoun, which reported a median income of nearly $112,000. D.C. was the poorest jurisdiction, with a median household income of nearly $58,000. That was still enough to place D.C. 12th highest in "state" household incomes.



The census' annual American Community Survey was released Tuesday. Among its findings for 2008:

»  Nationally, nearly 150,000 gay couples listed themselves as married.

»  Median household income, Loudoun: $111,925 ($107,207 in 2007)

»  Median household income, Fairfax: $107,448 ($105,241 in 2007)

»  Median household income, Arlington: $101,171 ($94,876 in 2007)

»  Median household income, Montgomery: $94,319 ($91,835 in 2007)

»  Median household income, Prince George's: $72,166 ($68,370 in 2007)

»  Median household income, D.C.: $57,936 ($54,317 in 2007)

»  In D.C., 13.2 percent of residents are foreign born (11th highest percentage in the country); in Maryland, 12.4 percent are foreign born (13th); in Virginia, 10.2 percent are foreign born (16th).

»  Asians make up the highest percentage of Virginia's immigrants: 40.8 percent in Virginia (fifth in the country), 32.6 in Maryland (14th) and 19 percent in D.C. (44th)

»  Latin Americans made up 47 percent of D.C.'s immigrant population (23rd in the country), 37 percent of Maryland's (34th) and 36.1 percent of Virginia's (35th)



Median income represents a community's statistical center: It means that exactly half of the residents in a jurisdiction earn more than the median, and half earn less.

The region held its own even as the recession wrought havoc with the rest of the country. The census reported that America's median household income fell by 3.6 percent, while the poverty rate rose from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 percent in 2008.

Experts say that the Washington region's high proportion of well-educated workers and the huge government sector are good insurance against economic decline.

"It's mostly recession-proof," Georgetown University professor Timothy Wickham-Crowley said of the region.

Brookings Institution demographer William Frey agreed.

"It certainly tells you that this region is a little more resilient than the rest of the country," he said.

Frey cautioned, though, that the slight income increase may not tell the whole story. Foreclosures and homelessness have spiked in the Washington area and Frey said the rising median incomes might indicate that the poorest are leaving the area for cheaper homes or better job prospects elsewhere.

"When people at the lower end of the ladder leave, they're not contributing to the median income," Frey said. "We know that a lot of people, especially in the outer suburbs of D.C., had real difficulties."

Frey runs his own statistical comparisons of metropolitan areas. He said the Washington region is second in the country in per capita income, behind the San Jose, Calif., region and in front of San Francisco.

It remains the top income region for whites, blacks and Hispanics. It's the second-best place for Asians, Frey said.