The margin of error for 2012 median household income in Howard County was plus or minus $2,972.

"Howard County is a relatively wealthy county. But these numbers tend to jump up and down anyway because of the nature of the source, which is a sample," Goldstein said.

Howard County's median household income suffered in the recession, he said.

But Goldstein noted that Howard County weathered the storm much better than its fellow counties. Out of all the counties in Maryland, Howard had the second smallest percentage decline from its peak median income from before the recession to 2012, with a decline of 3.3 percent.

Only Anne Arundel, which saw a 1.1 percent decline in median household income between its peak and 2012, fared better.

Howard County also has a relatively even distribution of wealth, based on an income-equality measure called the Gini index.

"It's a high-income, low-poverty county," Goldstein said. "It's sort of self-selecting – you only move to Howard County if you can afford to live there," he said.

But Basu pointed out that Howard County has a culture of inclusiveness, which led planners to build apartment and townhouse communities for young and lower-income families and individuals. The county's Moderate Income Housing Unit program requires a percentage (usually 10 to 15 percent) of units in the county's new developments to be affordable for moderate-income households.

"From the perspective of raw numbers, Howard County could have embraced a structure such that it could have had a higher median housing income than Loudoun County [by focusing on single-family housing developments]," he said.

To keep income numbers robust, he said the county needed "to find ways to diversify its economy," citing business incubators as a possible solution for attracting entrepreneurs. Howard County's Economic Development Authority has a business incubator at the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship.

And, he said, the next county executive would definitely play a role in the county's economic future.

"Ken Ulman has been pretty pro-business," he said of the current executive. "I think he's done a wonderful job shepherding the county's budget through very hard times."