Demystified: Oakland County — By The Numbers

Blog post by Sabiha Zainulbhai
July 15, 2015

Data Driven Detroit (D3)   (Detroit)

Oakland County, Michigan, a county on the northern border of Detroit, has been called one of “the wealthiest counties in the country,” But where does this statistic come from? Does Oakland County make it in the top ten? Does it even come close?  To understand where the statement regarding Oakland County first came from, we did some digging. Our analysts found that Oakland County ranks itself “with other like counties,” i.e. among counties that also exceed a million people.2 We found that out of the 3,144 counties in the US, Oakland County is one of only 41 counties whose population exceeds 1 million people. As Erica Raleigh, executive director of D3 points out, understanding these qualifiers is critical to contextualizing any kind of data, and could be the key to separating fact from fiction.

We then worked to unpack what “wealth” means in the US, looking first at several measures of income. Income per capita, median household income, and personal income per capita: all of which measure in different ways how much a person, a family or a geographic area earns from wages and other sources over a certain period of time. The blog post presents the findings on these three measures of income, all three of which rank Oakland County similarly.  The article then discusses three measures of wealth, as opposed to income, that could be used to rank Oakland County, a topic for further investigation.

This topic is one segment in the series "Detroit by the Numbers," a partnership between Data Driven Detroit and WDET, Detroit's public radio station.