Homes, People

Richest Neighborhoods: Tour 7 of America’s Most Elite Suburbs

America is home to more than 300 million people, which means that folks live in many different places.

So, we thought we’d take a look at seven of the richest neighborhoods in the United States. While you might think these would automatically be in the largest cities, like Boston, New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, this isn't always the case. Rather, the richest neighborhoods tend to be accessible to cities but somewhat removed from them. Smaller towns where people buy and don’t rent, and bring home a pretty decent paycheck characterize the richest neighborhoods. Let's take a look at our wealthy neighbors:

How Did We Determine the Richest Neighborhoods?

To determine the top seven richest neighborhoods, you have to do two things. First, you must determine what, exactly, you mean by a “neighborhood.” Second, you have to figure out how you determine the wealth of its residents. There are many ways to do this, but we’ve decided to base our list on the annual Bloomberg analysis of the richest neighborhoods. 

To determine wealth, Bloomberg used the average household income for a neighborhood. Some neighbors might really be raking in the dough, therefore, using the average household income accounts for those outliers. As for how they determined what a neighborhood is, they seem to have focused on the smallest grouping of people who have their own government.

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What characteristics do all of the richest neighborhoods share?

Our list of richest neighborhoods goes from coast to coast, and features many unique communities. However, they do share some similarities. Most of these places were founded by rich patrons who wanted to move away from early cities. Yet, with the advent of the railroad, these out of the way places suddenly found themselves connected to the big cities once again. This goes to say that most of these places are nearby an urban center, but far enough away that properties can have natural, unspoiled land.

Another similarity these neighborhoods tend to share is that they value residential living over businesses. Some of them, mostly on the west coast, don’t even allow any zoning for businesses. That may make it inconvenient to run out for milk and bread, but it reduces through traffic. They also tend to feature single-family homes or townhouses. There are few apartment high rises in these neighborhoods.

The 7 Richest Neighborhoods in America

If the richest neighborhoods in America sound like a place you'd like to call home, you'll want to consider each of these localities. From coast to coast, these are seven neighborhoods were high earning is the norm.

1. Atherton, California

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Credit: LPS1, Wikimedia Commons

Using the Bloomberg analysis, Atherton, California is the richest neighborhood in America. Forbes, using zip codes, ranked it at number two on it’s list of richest neighborhoods. South of San Francisco, the town began its time as a railroad stop between San Jose and the Golden Gate. It used to be considered part of Menlo Park, but was incorporated in the early 20th century, named after one of the first property owners there. Today, the average home costs more than $2 million and the average household income is $443,400.

The population, estimated to be more than 7,000 now, is politically diverse. While California is mostly seen as Democrat country, the majority of residents identify as Republicans. Since 1964, the Democratic candidate for president has only won the votes of the people of Atherton twice. The first time was in 2008, where they supported Barack Obama and in 2016 when they supported Hillary Clinton. Interestingly, in 2012, the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, earned a close victory.

The area itself is notable for its several tracts of Eichler homes, designed by famed residential architecture innovator and real-estate developer, Joseph Eichler. Many famous people called Atherton their home, including sports legends Ty Cobb, Jerry Rice, and Willie Mays. It’s also popular with the tech crowd, with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Intuit’s Tom Proulx residing there. Entertainers from Shirley Temple to Bob Weir and Lindsey Buckingham have all called one of America’s richest neighborhoods “home.”

2. Cherry Hills Valley, Colorado

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Credit: Brian and Rita Burke, Flickr

Based on Bloomberg’s assessment of average household income, Cherry Hills, Colorado is the second on their list of richest neighborhoods. A little south of the University of Denver, the peaceful suburb is close enough to the city for convenience, but far enough away to enjoy some of the natural wonder for which Colorado is famous. Cherry Hills only became incorporated in 1945, it’s name coming from a grove of cherry trees near the original center of the village.

Housing a population of almost 6,000, a median house value of $1.2 million, and an average household income of $390,200 makes Cherry Hills one of America’s richest neighborhoods. Around two thirds of the population is married, but only about one third have children in the house, according to the 2010 census figures. So, it’s a good place to raise kids, but most of your neighbors likely don’t have them.

Cherry Hills is also popular with NFL football stars. Former quarterbacks John Elway and Peyton Manning both have lived in Cherry Hills, and former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan lived there as well. Cherry Hills Country Club also hosted two PGA championships, one in 1941 and again in 1985. The 2005 U.S. Women’s Open was also held there on the club’s tennis courts.

3. Scarsdale, New York

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Credit: Ruthmarie Hicks, Flickr

Scarsdale, New York has a history dating back long before the United States broke away from England. It started as a royal manor at the dawn of the 18th century, but the estate officially became a town two years before the colonies declared independence. The population numbered in the hundreds until the New York and Harlem Railroad connected it to urban New York. Now it is one of America’s richest neighborhoods.

The Bloomberg analysis of richest neighborhoods ranks Scarsdale as third with an average household income of $387,600, a 2013 CNN Money analysis ranked it number one. In the 21st century, Scarsdale’s population has grown in diversity, with an influx of Japanese immigrants and those here for long-term business. The town is also found its way into American pop culture, from being name-dropped in Guys and Dolls to mentions in movies, TV, and literature. 

A number of colorful people have called Scarsdale home. Notorious mobster Bugsy Siegel, and Robert Hanssen, a spy for the Soviet Union, lived there. Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Rob Reiner, and Susan Lucci are just some of the actors who’ve lived in the neighborhood. There are also plenty of writers and musicians who call this area home.

4.  Los Altos, California

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Credit: Ben Freedman, Flickr

California’s second entry on this list of the richest neighborhoods is Los Altos Hills in California, not too far from Atherton. With a median home price of $7.7 million and an average household income of $373,800, it’s no wonder that it is near the top. There is a much more rural feel in Los Altos than Atherton or Scarsdale, with a number of natural preserves within its borders.

What makes Los Altos really interesting is the strict zoning laws it put in place after incorporation in 1956. Known as “strictly residential,” almost every building there is a family residence. There are only two businesses there. Foothill College has a campus bookstore, and the Immaculate Heart Monastery has a gift shop for visitors. Everything else sits on single acre plots that, by law, can only host a single family dwellings. A group mounted a legal challenge to these laws, however the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled they were Constitutional.

5. Short Hills, New Jersey

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Credit: Daniel Case, Wikimedia Commons

The hilly area of northern New Jersey that is now Short Hills, once hid General George Washington and the Continental Army during 1780’s Battle of Springfield. Almost a century later, businessman Stewart Hartshorn planned the community on 13 acres of land he purchased. He wanted to create a “harmonious” community for folks who appreciated quiet living and natural splendor. Eventually, his land holdings, and thus the town, increased to 1,552 acres. Today, more than 13,000 people call it home. When Hartshorn decided to build, at his own expense, a railroad stop connecting Short Hills to New York City via Hoboken, it started to become one of the richest neighborhoods in the state.

With an average household income of $354,400, Bloomberg ranked Short Hills fourth, but in 2014 Time magazine placed it atop their list of America’s richest neighborhoods. While it is a densely populated area, significant portions of land were designated to remain undeveloped, including a park donated to Milburn Township. Today, there is a direct rail line to Manhattan, so top executives and investors in major corporations have made Short Hills their home. Also, making up 15 percent of the population, are Native Americans. The Lanape Tribe, native to the area, named the area Short Hills long before colonialists ever arrived.

6. Hillsborough, California

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Credit: Peter Kaminiski, Flickr

Rural Hillsborough, California marks the sixth entry on our list of richest neighborhoods for the San Francisco Bay Area. Early settlers made their homes in Hillsborough around the turn of the 20th century. Not long after, they incorporated into a town that now hosts a population of over 10,000 people. Like Los Altos, they are strictly residential with four schools being the only non-residential property in the area. It’s very hilly and tricky to navigate, with a number of wooded areas and two streams.

Hillsborough ranks as one of America’s richest neighborhoods because the average household income is $350,900 and you can spend anywhere from $2 million to $10 million on a home here. Like Atherton, Hillsborough stands out for its politics since it as a majority Republican population unlike most other Bay Area neighborhoods. They have voted for the Republican candidate for president in every election since 1964, except in 2008 and 2016. Like Short Hills, they also have a significant population of Native American neighbors, who make up nearly 30 percent of the population.

7. Old Greenwich, Connecticut

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Credit: Noroton, Wikimedia Commons

The last of the richest neighborhoods on our list is one of the oldest. Old Greenwich, Connecticut is a small section of the much-larger Greenwich in Fairfield County.  1641 saw the founding, after the daughter of the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony purchased the area. Like much of the area, it was a mostly rural and self-contained coastal town.  A railway station built in the late 19th century opened the area up to commuters. Today, it is one of the richest neighborhoods in the nation.

Bloomberg analysis puts the average household income at $334, 900 and Old Greenwich has become a popular location for home buyers in recent years. There is a public beach for which residents can get a season pass. Non-residents, however, have to pay $20 per day to use the local stretch of coastline, named Tod’s Point after a former resident of the town. There are several distinct parts of the neighborhood, including Cos Cob, Glenville, Byram, and others. The original settlers lived in a part of town called “The Back Country,” which is where the wealthiest residents live today.

The Richest Neighborhoods Are Nice, But You Can Make A Home Anywhere.

These neighborhoods are considered the richest neighborhoods in the country, but such things change. The three bay area neighborhoods might switch places, Old Greenwich might fall or rise again. These things change, and the wealth your neighbors have isn’t always the best way to choose a place to live. If any of these communities are good places to make a home, it’s the character of the people who live there that make it that way.

Still, it is always good to know the richest neighborhoods in the area, because those are the areas that cater to the luxury lifestyle. We hope you enjoyed this list.

Do you have any stories to share about your experiences in the richest neighborhoods? Share them with us in the comments or on social media when you share this essay!

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