Monday, January 16, 2012

The geography of the 1%

The New York Times ran a lengthy feature yesterday that profiled the 1% (wealth-wise). The headline was "Among the Wealthiest One Percent, Many Variations," and the point was that the top earners in this country followed a variety of paths to get to that lofty 1% and that they live in a variety of places. Still, some trends among this group are discernible. First, they work long hours, and while married 1 percenters are as likely as other married folks to have a spouse who works, men in these couples tend to be the big breadwinners.

Not surprisingly, the one percent are also more likely to live in cities than in rural places, though I suspect quite a few of them have second (and even third) homes in amenity-rich rural locales.

The authors of the story, Shaila Dewan and Robert Gebeloff, also note that being in the "local 1%" takes a lot less income in some places than in others. This, of course, also reflects uneven development and the fact that wealthy people (and some of the best jobs) tend to be clustered in certain places. Here's an excerpt:
Aspen's 1 percent is very different from Akron's. In some areas there are so many 1 per centers that the whole income hierarchy can shift. It can take $380,000 to be in the national 1 percent, but it takes $900,000 to be among the top 1 percent of earners in Stamford, Conn. Compared with that, the price of admission to the 1 percent in Clarksville, Tenn., is a bargain at $200,000.
The story reports the income level required to be in the top 1% is lowest in Jamestown, New York, at just $176,000. Here's where that 1% threshold falls in other cities:

Dover, DE: $266,000
Boulder, CO: $463,000
Boise, ID: 306,000
Tacoma, WA: $287,000
Eugene, OR: $301,000
Des Moines, IA: $350,000
Pueblo, CO: $258,000
Las Cruces, NM: $242,000
El Paso, TX: $257,000
Shreveport, LA: $326,000
Biloxi, MS: $313,000
Daytona Beach, FL: $312,000
Louisville, KY: $320,000
Kenosha, WI: 356,000
Chicago, IL: $480,000
Peoria, IL: $388,000
Fort Smith, AR: $301,000
Duluth, MN: $362,000

The story features this interactive map, which readers can use to see in what percentage their income lands them in different parts of the country.

I note where an income of $100,000 places an earner in each of these places:

Nonmetropolitan West Virginia: top 11%
Nonmetropolitan Montana: top 14%
Billings, Montana: top 17%
Nonmetropolitan Utah: top 16%
Salt Lake City, Utah: top 22%
Nonmetropolitan Arkansas: top 9%
Metropolitan Arkansas: top 17%
Nonmetropolitan Idaho: top 12%
Albuquerque, New Mexico: top 18%
Nonmetropolitan, New Mexico: top 12%
Sacramento, California: top 25%
Nonmetropolitan California: top 17%
Nassau County, New York: top 44%
San Francisco/Oakland, California: top 40%
Portland, Maine: top 23%
Nonmetropolitan Maine: top 14%
Flint, Michigan: top 7%
Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas: top 23%
Nonmetropolitan Kansas: top 12%

In general, then, cities dilute the power of one's wealth vis a vis others because people in cities tend to earn more than their nonmetropolitan counterparts.

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