Follow The Money: Americans Earning Over $200k Are Moving Here

Americans earning over $200,000 are flocking to Cook County, Illinois; Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area; Jacksonville suburbs; Houston, Texas; and dozens of other exclusive communities around the country. Some of these communities have been gentrified, thus have a fine divide between rich and poor. With wealth inequality at record levels, the country is splintering into two Americas (the haves and the have-nots).

Bloomberg is fascinated with prosperous America. They measured the economic fortunes of households earning $200,000 or more by using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to gain color on these ultra-wealthy neighborhoods. Here is a map of the share of households earning $200,000 or more:

About 7% of American families bring in $200,000 per year, according to the consulting firm Webster Pacific. This population of wealthy people has never been higher since the Dot Com bubble. The firm used government data published on Dec. 06 and adjusted for inflation. (The ranking excludes recently created tracts, those defined as tracts of significant change and any tracts with fewer than 100 households in either 2000 or 2017, said Bloomberg.)

Cook County, a county in Illinois and the second-most populous county in the US after Los Angeles County, California, is home to No. 1 and No. 7 fastest-growing concentrations of $200,000-plus households.

Bloomberg said, No. 1, ironically, used to be one of the worst housing projects in the state. The complex was notorious for violent crime, poverty and de facto racial segregation until its demolition in the early 1990s. In the mid-90s, authorities fretted with the idea that gentrification of the area would displace low-income families. Two decades later, they were correct, the area's concentration of $200,000-plus households has skyrocketed from zero to 39%. 

Cook County has another top ten neighborhood about 20 miles north: the Glen. The community was constructed on Naval Air Station Glenview, "the community has hundreds of families living in condos, townhouses and single-family homes that go for as much as $2.5 million each," according to realtor Margaret Ludemann.

Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area, has four of the top 10 (Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6) fastest-growing regions of high earners. The region already had a significant concentration of wealth dating back to the Dot Com bubble. But since then, people have gotten so wealthy that more than half of the households earn $200,000 or more. (The New York metropolitan area captured Nos. 9 and 10.)

"Lobbyists, defense contractors, law firms and technology companies all played a role in the Washington area’s ascent. So, too, has the high ratio of multi-earner households," according to Jeannette Chapman, deputy director at the Stephen S. Fuller Institute at George Mason University.

Chapman said with all that wealth concentrated in the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area; many residents do not feel wealthy, even though they are high-earners. 

“A household earning $200,000 here still might be struggling in a way that’s just unfathomable in other parts of the country because the costs are so much higher,” she said.

No. 4 area is in Florida, surrounding Marsh Landing, a gated community in Ponte Vedra Beach, said Bloomberg.  Its residents have made a lot of money since the Dot Com bubble. In 2000, the area had a 20% concentration of the wealthiest Americans. Now some 56% of households there make $200,000 or more.

The neighborhood is down the street from Jacksonville, a city that has added more than 23,000 financial-services jobs since 2000, according to the JAXUSA Partnership, a division of the local chamber of commerce. 

"Since the financial crisis, Wall Street companies have sought to reduce wage expenditures by putting employees in cities with a lower cost of living. As a result, Bank of America Corp., Deutsche Bank AG, and Citigroup Inc. now employ thousands of workers each in northern Florida," said Bloomberg.

Houston, Texas, enjoyed the benefits of a massive fracking bubble. In the city's metro areas, new development is attracting an enormous inflow of households that have deep pockets.

In neighborhoods such as Oak Forest, families making more than $200,000, are rushing to renovate 70-year-old bungalows, the region has made it to No. 10 in the top 100 fastest-concentrating pockets of $200,000 households.