Land of Milk -- and Nuthin' Honey HOWARD COUNTY

December 30, 1992

Where's Robin Leach? Judging from a recent report on "affluent counties" in American Demographics magazine, you would think the syrupy-voiced host of TV's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" would be visiting Howard County any day.

Howard County was ranked as the:

* Sixth "most comfortable" county in the United States for its high percentage of moderate income residents (household incomes at least $50,000).

* 17th "most affluent" for its wealth of households with incomes above $100,000.

* 3rd highest in the country for its percentage of affluent black families.

* 10th most popular destination for those who are "young and rich" (under age 35 with a household income of $50,000).

* 6th highest for middle-aged affluence (ages 35 to 54, $50,000 or more).

* 9th highest in affluent older households (55 or older, $50,000 or more).

* 11th best "all-around" county in the nation for the frequency with which it places on all the previous measures of comfort.

Howard clearly has a lot going for it. The county has excellent transportation access to two metropolitan areas. With verdant river valley parks as bookends, the county is a funky mix of urbane planned villages, of mill towns nestled on billy goat bluffs, of 4-H clubs and kid soccer leagues, of town and country. Even in the recession, it's been one of Maryland's more promising economic development corridors, attracting the likes of Coca-Cola and Sears.

For all the wealth and natural beauty, though, the place is reminiscent of a tormented starlet.

Residents, loathe to witness more development, scream that politicians are in developers' pockets. Schools are crowded. Racist acts, like that of a white boy spraying a black girl with disinfectant on a school bus, seem all the more wrenching in a community that prides itself on diversity and tolerance. The actions of the Human Rights Commission oft times seem neither right nor human.

Why should a place of wealth produce such strife?

We are hard-pressed to come up with an answer except for the time-honored one: Money can't buy happiness.

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