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Census outlines family incomes

June 02, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Household income in Washington County grew last decade at a slower pace than in any other county in the Tri-State area, according to recently released U.S. Census figures.

But the median amount of money earned, $40,617, was still higher than most.

The long form of the 2000 census asked approximately one in six households to list their income from the previous year and other information about themselves.

Median household income reflects the average income. Roughly the same number of households reported earning more or less than the median.

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Frederick County, Md., median household income of $60,276 was markedly more than any other county in the region.

"I think it's very impressive. We're thrilled here with the quality of high-paying jobs that exist in Frederick County," said Sandy Dubay-Sponaugle, the county's business development specialist.

Frederick County is fortunate to have a high concentration of technical jobs, especially in the biotech field, she said.

As companies move east to escape the congestion and high cost of the Baltimore-Washington area, some have settled in Frederick County, but few have gone beyond.

South Mountain, which separates Frederick and Washington counties, has been a huge psychological barrier, said Cassandra Latimer, marketing director for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

In some ways, that barrier has been a blessing because it has protected Washington County from uncontrolled growth. Growth that occurs too fast can overwhelm schools and roads and become an assault on the quality of life.

"A steady amount of growth is good. The community can handle that much better," she said.

Washington County's growth rate of 6 percent after inflation was respectable, said Peggy Dalton, economics professor at Frostburg State University.

Fulton County, Pa., continued to rank last in median household income, with $34,882.

However, the rural county's income increased faster than other area counties during the decade, 13 percent after inflation.

Dalton attributed the increase to spinoff from development along the Interstate 81 corridor.

"Berkeley County has seen it, Franklin County has seen it, and now it's bleeding into Fulton County. Good for them," she said.

The census counted about 9,000 inmates in the state prison complex south of Hagerstown as Washington County residents. However, prisoners aren't used to compute household income statistics, Dalton said.

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