Richest Counties in California (2024)

by Kristen Carney Kristen Carney

Updated: June 20, 2024

Richest County in California

The richest county in California is San Mateo County with an average household income of $216,684 as of 2022 and 726,353 people as of 2023 according to the most current Census data available (citation).

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20 Richest Counties in California

Rank County Population Average Income Median Income
1 San Mateo County 726,353 $216,684 $149,907
2 Marin County 254,407 $215,832 $142,019
3 Santa Clara County 1,877,592 $210,349 $153,792
4 San Francisco County 808,988 $197,408 $136,689
5 Contra Costa County 1,155,025 $165,199 $120,020
6 Alpine County 1,141 $164,883 $101,125
7 Alameda County 1,622,188 $164,668 $122,488
8 Orange County 3,135,755 $147,182 $109,361
9 Napa County 133,216 $146,888 $105,809
10 Santa Cruz County 261,547 $146,532 $104,409
11 Placer County 423,561 $140,703 $109,375
12 El Dorado County 192,215 $139,272 $99,246
13 Ventura County 829,590 $135,094 $102,141
14 Sonoma County 481,812 $133,119 $99,266
15 Santa Barbara County 441,257 $131,742 $92,332
16 San Benito County 68,175 $129,829 $104,451
17 San Diego County 3,269,973 $129,234 $96,974
18 Monterey County 430,723 $123,405 $91,043
19 Solano County 449,218 $121,293 $97,037
20 San Luis Obispo County 281,639 $121,160 $90,158

Median Income versus Average Income: Which Should You Use?

We usually suggest using median income data – either instead of or in addition to – average income data as a true indicator of wealth. If you haven’t thought about median versus average since your last standardized test, you aren’t alone. Here’s what they are:

  • average is the sum of a set of numbers divided by the count of numbers in the set
  • median is the middle number in the set of numbers
illustation of median vs average

Now let’s say you had the following simplified set of income data.

Household 1: $30,000
Household 2: $50,000
Household 3: $1,000,000

The average income for this set is $360,000. The outlier data point ($1,000,000) skews the average WAY up. Conversely, the average income would be skewed WAY down if someone had an income of $500. The median income for the same data set is $50,000. Outlier data doesn’t skew the median.

Most Business Owners Should Use Median Income

So most business owners should use the median income as a true indicator of wealth, because it provides a more accurate representation of a typical income, especially in areas with significant income disparity.

When Should You Use Average Income

If your target market is high-income households, the average income may be more relevant. This is because the average income can highlight the presence of a higher concentration of wealthy individuals, which is beneficial for luxury goods and services marketing. We’re using average income on this page because using the Census’s highest reported median value of $250,001 could result in multiple ties for the richest geography.

Why do so many cities have a median value of $250,001?

The Census' American Community Survey uses $250,000+ as a jam value for median income estimates to protect privacy, ensure data consistency, and simplify reporting. A "jam value" in survey data refers to a placeholder or default value used when actual data points are unavailable, incomplete, or exceed certain thresholds. We represent this jam value as $250,001 to make it easy for you to sort.

SOURCES

United States Census Bureau. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2023. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. Web. May 2024. http://www.census.gov/.

United States Census Bureau. B01001 SEX BY AGE, 2022 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Office. Web. 7 December 2023. http://www.census.gov/.

United States Census Bureau. B19013 Median Household Income, 2022 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Office. Web. 7 December 2023. http://www.census.gov/.

United States Census Bureau. “DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS.” 2022 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Office. Web. 07 December 2023. http://www.census.gov/.

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