Who Lives in the Richest Areas in the United States?
The Higley 1000, created by Stephen Higley, is a website that looks at racial integration in the wealthiest American neighborhoods. A professor at the University of Montevallo, he’s systematically broken down what it means to live the American dream: “living in the best of neighborhoods that provide status and luxury as well as access to the finest schools (both private and public), shopping, recreational facilities, and well patrolled safety.

2010 Higley 1000


For this list, Higley has used data from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey to compile a list of the wealthiest neighborhoods at the block group level, and examined the racial makeup and integration of them. To narrow down the information, he looked at contiguous block groups with a middle income level more than $200,000/year. To get an understanding of what a block group is, imagine Census tracts—geographical areas of land that cover the whole country—and then subdivide them into groups. Each Census tract has about 5,000 people, and each block group is about 1/5 of a tract with about 1,000 residents on each.

Higley theorizes that each block group has borders based on socio-economic status which should stay the same each time a census is performed, and that additions like high-rise buildings could affect the value of the neighborhood negatively. The example he uses of this happening is Holmby Hills in the Platinum Triangle that slipped from #1 in 2000 to #677 because of its merging with Westwood, a neighborhood with hundreds of condos on Wilshere.

Lastly, he’s generalized the racial makeups of each neighborhood into one of four categories: black for African-American, Latino for Hispanic, Asian for each ethnicity on the continent, and white for non-Hispanic white.

Highest Income Neighborhoods


The new neighborhood that occupies the top spot on the Higley 1000 is Mid Country West and Mid Country East in Greenwich, Connecticut, also known as the “Golden Triangle” for the high asking prices of houses (average: $6.66 million); the highest-priced property was a 13,000 square foot home for $20 million, while the “cheapest” house is a 1,600 square foot home valued at $1.1 million.

Higley also set parameters as to what constitutes a block group, making the baseline population for one a minimum of 400 people so as to exclude tiny villages or islands with extremely high-priced houses. Using this criterion, he found that elite suburbs—despite their lower populations—tended to make their presence known on the Higley 1000, with the top village being Westlake (north of Fort Worth). Interestingly, if he hadn’t used the population cutoff, a town called Fisher Island near Miami Beach (pop. 132) would have been the top spot with a mean income of $716,554 (although Higley doubts the veracity of this number based on the inaccuracy of people reporting their own income as opposed to the IRS’ data, and the way the American Community Survey is structured).

Racial Composition


From the top 1000 wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, New York City (pop. 664,771)—including areas like New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island, and six more—has the most with 234 and is composed of 83.8% white, 7.8% Asian, 4.3% Latino, and 1.8% black. New York City proper (pop 143,371), on the other hand, has 19 Higley 1000 areas with the racial makeup fairly contiguous (80.4% white, 8.8% Asian, 5.4% Latino, 2.0% black).

The metro area with the least number of Higley 1000 areas is San Antonio (pop. 11, 751) with 5, and their racial makeup is a little more diverse than the above Higley 1000 areas: 71.9% white, 2.5% Asian, 21.0% Latino, and 0.8% black. Another interesting metro area to note is Las Vegas, arguably the gambling capital of the country and one area where money flows quite freely. Las Vegas has 7 Higley 1000 areas, a population of 11,361, and a racial makeup of 79.7% white, 8.7% Asian, 5.8% Latino, and 1.8% black.

Higley’s undertaken an interesting task by highlighting the incongruity between race and wealth. Looking at New York City proper, as an example, the 19 Higley 1000 areas only contain 2.0% black residents when there are far more than that in the city, state and country. It points to an imbalance between ethnicity and wealth, and suggests that being white gives people a leg up in terms of wealth and being able to live in a desirable neighborhood.

Amy Wright
Amy Wright is the Lead Editor of Remodeling Central. When she isn't playing with her dogs she is trying to remodel a classic Chicago style brownstone with her husband.
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