February 26, 2018
The “rich” continue to be the focus of much interest. Whether it be a reality TV show, or the demonization of the 1%, rarely a week goes by without some reference to this generally anonymous segment of society. So where do they live? That question is not to provide material for gossip. The location of the homes of the rich can provide some insight into where money is being made.
Discovering the homes of the rich is not straightforward. They are apparently a secretive lot. According to a recent book, “Uneasy Street” by Rachel Sherman, the greatest fear of the rich these days is “being outed as a member of the 1%”. With the possible exception of “Real Housewives”, it would seem that the days of flaunting your wealth are over. Even so, there is plenty of information on the most likely spots to find rich folks.
Of course the first question is what constitutes wealth? If the answer is based mostly on income, then one of the cities with the “richest” people might surprise you. The area around Washington DC comes in as the number 3 city in the USA according to 24/7 Wall St., who used 2016 data from the US Census Bureau. No doubt DC’s high ranking owes much to the money spent on Federal government politicians and officials, and those employed to serve, represent and lobby them. The 24/7 Wall St. study also concluded the top two places went to California – with San Francisco coming in at #2, and San Jose/Santa Clara rated as the top dog.
If you view wealth as being more influenced by house prices, the answer is very straightforward. Look no further than California for nine of the top ten wealthiest cities in the US, according to cheatsheet.com. Palo Alto came in top, with a median home price of $2.5m (around ten times the median price in Atlanta according to Zillow). The only non-California city to break the top ten was Bethesda, Maryland; no doubt another beneficiary of the wealth of Washington.
For the real wealth, though, we should broaden our search across the globe and look for billionaires. Happily, Forbes provides data on where the world’s 2,000 plus billionaires live. There is probably no surprise that the city with the highest number (82) is New York. More noteworthy is that four of the top ten billionaire cities are in China: Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Moreover, the top ten list includes Mumbai in India, and Seoul in South Korea. The economic growth of these countries is making some people very wealthy.
Another surprise in the Forbes list is the appearance of Moscow at #3. Maybe this is the product of the way large chunks of the economy were seized after the fall of communist rule? The influence of the Russians may also partly explain London’s appearance at #5 given that the richest “Londoner” identified by Forbes is a Mr. Blavatnik. I guess if you are a billionaire, you can choose to live wherever you want.