February 12, 2013
Where do rich people live? The detailed answer, based on a new Census Bureau report, is absorbing if not exactly shocking: They tend to live near major population centers along the coasts, both in suburbs and urban areas.
The Census Bureau used data covering January 2006 through November 2011 to map out the location and concentration of households with incomes high enough to place them in the top 5 percent of earners. For the time frame the Census used, the richest 5 percent made at least $191,469 a year.
The 50 largest metropolitan areas are home to 51.9 percent of U.S. households, but 71.9 percent of those wealthy households. Within those metropolitan areas, the rich were slightly more likely to be found in the suburbs than in urban centers. Just over 6 percent of suburban households had incomes that put them in the top 5 percent, compared to 4.9 percent in cities.
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The New York and Los Angeles areas may both have huge wealthy populations, but they did not have the highest concentration of wealth. That title went to the Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk area in Connecticut, a hedge-fund heavy, low-tax region about an hour outside of New York City. Nearly 18 percent of households in that area are among the country’s top 5 percent of earners, according to the Census report. Bridgeport, a small city of about 150,000 with a median household income just under $41,000 and a 22 percent poverty rate, according to recent Census data, isn’t exactly the Beverly Hills of the East Coast, but some nearby towns like Westport are known as magnets for the rich.
Not surprisingly, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara region of northern California and the Washington, D.C., metro areas boast the next highest concentrations of wealth, with 15.9 percent and 14.1 percent of households among the country’s highest earners.
At the other end of the income spectrum, Southeastern states including Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee tended to have lower concentrations of high-earning households. Two areas named Danville, one in Virginia and one in Illinois, had the lowest concentrations of wealth, with 1.1 percent of households in those areas reaching the top tier of income levels.