Anne Arundel County residents are among the best-paid in the nation, with salaries nearly 50 percent higher than the national median.

Finding a place to live is another story, according to a statistical portrait being released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. About 2 percent of the county's available housing was vacant last year.

Local environmental groups are troubled by one statistic: Nearly 68 percent of county households surveyed last year had two or more vehicles.

Those findings are part of the Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, a national sampling of 700,000 households last year that included 15,000 Maryland homes. The survey paints a statistical portrait of the finances, homes and daily lives of residents in the selected counties.

The survey, conducted separately from last year's census, was conducted for the first time last year as a proposed replacement for the 2010 census "long-form" questionnaire.

The resulting snapshot shows an Anne Arundel median income of $61,668, far more than the national median of $41,349.

The survey found that of 186,937 housing units in the county, 4,372, or 2.3 percent, were vacant last year.

Jean Andrews, past president of the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors, said yesterday that the vacancy figures confirmed what she knew but added that the census estimates seem low.

"We have a dearth, but the figures don't seem high enough," said Andrews of Champion Realty Inc. in Severna Park. "When I go out to show property, there are always one or two out of five that seem to be vacant."

The survey also estimates that families made up 74 percent of the households in the county last year, with married couples accounting for 58 percent of households and "other families" making up 16 percent. "Non-families" - people living alone or with unrelated people - made up 26 percent of county households.

The average household size is 2.6 people, the survey found.

Of the county's 182,565 households, the survey estimated, 123,604 have two or more vehicles: 47,054 have three or more.

"This doesn't surprise me in the least," said George Maurer, senior planner with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "As development becomes more and more sprawling, car ownership goes up. You can't get anywhere in Anne Arundel County without a car.

"That's bad news from an environmental standpoint," said Maurer, a Cape St. Claire resident.

Anne Arundel had the 11th-worst ozone pollution in the country from 1996 to 1998 according to "State of the Air 2000," a report of the American Lung Association. About one-third of the Chesapeake Bay's nitrogen pollution comes from air pollution. Power plants are the leading source, but Maurer said emissions from cars and trucks are a close second.

Among the survey's other findings:

  • Commuting: Eighty percent of the county's 249,166 workers drove to work alone last year, 11 percent carpooled, and 3 percent took public transportation. Four percent worked at home. Among those who commuted to work, it took them 28 minutes on average to get to work.

  • Income: Families in the county - a family was defined as two or more related people living together - had a median income of $69,049 a year, about $30,000 more than "non-families." Per capita income in the county was $27,301.

  • Language: Among residents at least 5 years old last year, 9 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Of those, 33 percent spoke Spanish. Thirty-five percent said they did not speak English "very well."

  • Education: Last year, 85 percent of residents 25 and older had graduated from high school and 30 percent had bachelor's degrees or higher. Of residents ages 16 to 19, 6 percent were dropouts.