Is the rags to riches dream still alive in America? Cruising along the suburban neighborhoods that make up America's wealthiest districts, it could definitely be argued that the answer is a solid yes. Gated communities with perfectly manicured lawns are fronting staggeringly huge mansions – the kinds of places where a 4-car garage and marbled pillar entrances are the norm. Trouble-free, cash-heavy, and very much showing off the 1%, these neighborhoods are safe, connected, and peaceful all at once.
At the other end of the spectrum, America is filled with neighborhoods that are struggling – and that's an understatement. Entire communities are living paycheck to paycheck, and there's nothing glamorous about it. Movies like Eminem's 8 Mile have a done a good job showing us exactly how hard life is in a community with no jobs, plenty of trailers, and very little of the silver lining. This half of America has no gated mansions or full-time cleaning staff. They're families living in homes with not enough bedrooms and utility bills that are getting cut off. It doesn't matter which state a person is in, there will always be evidence of both extremes, although some states have more of each. California and New York continue to top "Wealthiest Neighborhoods" lists, while areas in the South continue to struggle. We'll be looking at both. Here are 25 of America's most (and least) privileged neighborhoods.
25 PURCHASE, NY SURE KNOWS HOW TO SPIN A NAME
With a mean household income of $464,955, you could say that Purchase, NY is well-named. With its vast mansions and leafy green lawns, this Westchester County community might be rural, but it's rich. Sweeping gravel driveways are letting in top-of-the-range cars that swiftly end up in spacious garages, and real estate prices reach $7 million. A Japanese international boarding school even has its home here. PepsiCo's CEO, Indra Nooyi also lives here.
Purchase, NY is home to the "Platinum Mile." MasterCard and PepsiCo have their headquarters here.
24 THERE ARE FEW LUXURIES IN VALDOSTA, GA
In 2014, Business Insider covered the least privileged states in America. The state of Georgia came in fourth, with a "poverty rate" of 18%. Almost two million Georgians live below the poverty line, and those who are unemployed are worst off. The media outlet found that 84% of Georgia's unemployed residents do not receive any form of unemployment insurance – only 4,000 adults in Georgia receive welfare. Valdosta, GA is the 14th largest city in the state, but it's one of the most deprived. The per capita income is just $19,003.
23 CALABASAS, CA ATTRACTS THE RICH AND FAMOUS
Watch enough Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and you can easily find yourself casually referring to the Calabasas neighborhood. This Californian district caters nicely to the rich and famous, being both tucked away and conveniently close to Los Angeles and Hollywood. Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Britney Spears have all lived in Calabasas. The most famous residents are the Kardashians, though. The median household income here is $124,585, although many Calabasas homeowners have an income in the millions.
Weirdly, the Cheesecake Factory is Calabasas' 3rd-biggest employer.
22 JUPITER ISLAND, FL HAS DREAM HOMES
"Celine Dion Cuts Price Of Jupiter Island, FL Estate" was The Wall Street Journal's headline in 2017. The figures? The singer had slashed the $72 million buying price to $38.5 million. Here is just a small part of the 5.7-acre oceanfront compound that comes with 13 bedrooms, a tennis house, and a beach house. Residents in Jupiter Island, FL are definitely living the high life. With a median household income of $199,167, families here can focus on luxury. Other notable residents include Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
21 LIFE ISN'T EASY IN EL PASO, TX
The border town of El Paso might feature in high-profile movies and TV shows, but this Texan community is also featuring on CBS' Poorest Cities In America. 30.7% of El Paso's residents earn less than $25,000 a year, and the education statistics are worrying to some. 85% of people from America have a high school degree or an equivalent qualification. In El Paso, TX, that figure sits at 74%, with only 22.7% having a college degree. Over 660,000 people live here. If you want an idea of the problems that life in El Paso poses, just watch Breaking Bad.
20 BEVERLY HILLS IS A ZIP CODE FULL OF GLAMOROUS FACES
There's a reason that homes in these Californian districts come with a "Golden Triangle" name. Encompassing Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Holmby Hills, this prime area of real estate is as exclusive as the people filling its homes. Taking a look at some of the prices that celebrities have paid to live here, the figures speak for themselves. Take the $28 million that Jennifer Lopez paid for her Beverly Hills pad. The Daily Mail also reported $30 million as the figure that Dr. Phil dropped on his mansion here.
19 THINGS ARE FANCY IN CHEVY CHASE, MD
Chevy Chase Village may only have an area of less than half a square mile, but that's one wealthy zip code. With a mean household income of just under half a million dollars, the Maryland location may be called a village, but the homes aren't filled with peasants. $1.8 million is the average house price here – definitely reflective of it being the richest town in the entire state.
Chevy Chase Village is the kinds of privileged that come with the Chevy Chase Country Club – and its $50,000 joining fee.
18 THE NERDS ARE MAKING BIG BUCKS IN ATHERTON, CA
The Wikipedia page for the San Mateo, CA town of Atherton opens by stating it to have "the highest per capita income among US towns" for its size. San Mateo is the breeding ground for some of the world's fastest-growing tech companies. It's also home to the headquarters of major brands such as YouTube, Odwalla drinks, and GoPro. The TV show, Silicon Valley actually filmed some of its scenes in San Mateo offices. Cash-poor startups these might be at first, but the incubators are upscale here.
17 FAMILIES ARE STRUGGLING IN KIRYAS JOEL, NY
In 2011, The New York Times listed Kiryas Joel, NY as the "nation's poorest place." This small community is mostly formed of ultra-orthodox Jewish people, where families are large and incomes are low. 70% of residents live below the federal poverty line, although the article was explicit in calling the "numbers, not the image" poor. Men here traditionally learn from religious Torah texts as opposed to being employed, but this leaves families struggling. The median family income is only $17,929. Half of Kiryas Joel's residents rely on food stamps.
16 CONNECTICUT'S GOLDEN TRIANGLE HAS PALATIAL REAL ESTATE
A neighborhood will need to be all kinds of wealthy to be called The Golden Triangle. This spot refers to the series of prime real estate filling the mid-country section of Greenwich, CT. It might not have California's sun, but it's got the palatial homes. Average annual earnings here are $614,212. Not surprising, then, that multi-million dollar properties are what fills the region's waterways, country roads, and manicured lawns. Homes here easily cost upwards of $5 million, although you can expect to pay more for a waterfront property.
15 ANNUAL EARNINGS ARE $12,000 IN UNIVERSITY PARK, NEW MEXICO
This town's name might suggest a strong educational presence, but the reality is harsh in University Park, NM. The population of this New Mexico neighborhood was 4,192 during the 2010 census, where figures showed how hard life is. Earnings here aren't much above $12,000 a year. Over half of University Park's residents live below the federal poverty line. New Mexico has some very beautiful and culture-rich locations. Albuquerque, in particular, rose to prominence during Breaking Bad, but University Park isn't a place that Walter White would want his family in.
14 THIS HAMPTONS DISTRICT HAS RENTALS FOR $1.5 MILLION
The upstate New York district of The Hamptons has been a summer playground for the rich and famous since before color photographs existed. The first two episodes of Gossip Girls was set here. Anyone watching the hedge fund thriller Billions will know that the lead character has a mansion in The Hampton's wealthiest corner – Meadow Lane, Southampton. The median income here is $407,601 and waterfront properties can cost as much as $1.5 million for two weeks. Remember Charlotte from SATC? She "summered" in The Hamptons.
13 CELEBRITIES ADORE CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, COLORADO
Who doesn't want verdant greenery and sprawling mansions that are just a quick drive from a major city? In 2018, Mansion Global named Cherry Hills Village, CO as the second-richest city in the US. 10 miles from downtown Denver, this cocooned community has 10,000-square-foot mansions, horse paddocks, hiking trails, and a dramatic mountain backdrop. Schools here are top-of-the-range, as are the golfing and shopping amenities.
Rural Denver districts like these have celeb owners like Oprah, Tom Cruise, and Don Cheadle.
12 PHILADELPHIA, PA HAS COMMUNITIES IN NEED
Just because it's a major city, doesn't mean that everyone there is living the high life. In 2015, the Philadelphia Inquirer described Philadelphia, PA as "the poorest big city in America." This is just one the city's residents who just about has a roof over their head. The City of Brotherly Love has struggled for decades in what has been described as the highest rate of "deep poverty" in America. Over 35% of residents have incomes under $25,000 a year. We can't help but feel deeply for the people of this city.
11 CAMEO SHORES, CA HAS OCEAN VIEW MANSIONS
Across from the equally privileged Cameo Highlands in Newport Beach, CA is Cameo Shores. Mean household incomes here are $554,721 – enough to put down a mortgage on the neighborhood's very beautiful homes (and their beautiful views). Around 150 homes form this ultra-exclusive community, where homes share private, gated beach access. Properties here often have staggered terraces making the most of panoramic ocean vistas. Newport Beach's gated communities have featured on The Real Housewives of Orange County and the TV show, The O.C.
10 ATHLETES AND RAPPERS LOVE STAR ISLAND IN MIAMI
Making the most of its enviable South Beach location, the Star Island neighborhood of Miami is no regular zip code. South of the Venetian Islands and with properties that can cost over $10 million, this exclusive neighborhood is loved by the entertainment industry's high earners. The NBA player, LeBron James has a home here, as do Shaquille O'Neal, Rihanna, Sean Combs, and Madonna. Not surprisingly, so does Jennifer Lopez. Where else to enjoy the Miami sun and the Hispanic nightlife than Star Island?
9 THE TOWN OF MENDOTA IS NO CALIFORNIAN DREAM
"The Detroit of California" – that's how The New York Times described the Fresno county town of Mendota, where life is hard and incomes are low. That's if your lucky enough to have a job. With an unemployment rate of 38.7% and incomes under $25,000 a year, it's a reality here that shopping is done at 99 cent stores or Dollar City. The storefronts might be a colorful celebration of Latino culture, but this Californian town is a million miles from the Californian stereotype.
8 RESIDENTS ARE NO COUNTRY BUMPKINS IN MISSION HILLS, KANSAS
You could be forgiven for thinking of rustic countryside when you see the name Kansas. With its great plains and rolling hills, the Midwestern state of Kansas might symbolize country life, but it's a fancy affair in Mission Hills. Sitting on the border with Missouri, this upscale community has an average income of over $200,000 a year. The TV show, Switched at Birth is filmed in the area. Stately homes here have white trim windows, pillar entrances, and enough wealth to rank third in Forbes' "Most Affluent Neighborhoods" list.
7 WESTLAKE IS AN EXCLUSIVE CORNER OF TEXAS
Rustic-style kitchens might fill the homes of this Fort Worth suburb, but they're using fine walnuts and wrought irons. Westlake is upscale as they come. With a population of just over 700 and average incomes of $526,590, earning over half a million dollars a year here will get you the kinds of real estate that most people can only wish for. The Jonas Brothers and the Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton have both purchased properties here.
The Jonas Brothers purchased a sprawling ranch here back in 2008.
6 BURR RIDGE IS AN ILLINOIS SUBURB WITH SOME FAMOUS RESIDENTS
You'll need a pretty healthy income to purchase a home in Burr Ridge. This Chicago suburb is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful suburbs in America. With an average income of $462,442, it's also one of the wealthiest. Burr Ridge is home to the luxury housing community known as The Burr Ridge Club, where luxury homes dot elegant pools, limestone patios, and a whole lot of marble. The Apprentice winner, Bill Rancic and his E! News presenter wife Giuliana have a home here.
5 DETROIT IS STILL EXPERIENCING HARDSHIP
The world didn't need to wait for the 8 Mile movie to see how deprived some parts of Detroit, Michigan are. Eminem had made it perfectly clear from his first album, and those trailer parks are 100% real. In 2014, CBS News reported Detroit as being the largest US city to ever declare bankruptcy. Vast areas of dilapidated or abandoned homes here really show how even a large city can struggle – 48% of the population earns less than $25,000 a year.
4 LOS ALTOS HILLS, CA HAS SOME PRICEY REAL ESTATE
With house prices averaging at $5.4 million, Los Altos Hills in San Jose, CA is a zip code with a price tag to match. High earning executives here include those employed at the nearby Apple headquarters or Cupertino's booming tech scene. This strict residential community does not permit retail outlets, so it's peace and quiet all-round, here. Private horseback riding is, however, very much available at the Westwind Community Barn. The co-founder of Yahoo!, Jerry Yang, also has a home here.
3 STYLISH NEW YORKERS ARE RELOCATING TO BROOKVILLE
New York City will always be one of the most glamorous cities in the world. For the likes of ladies such as the SATC girls, a property in the Long Island neighborhood of Brookville would be right on the money (literally). Filled with upscale and designer shopping malls, this quiet community has residents with an average income of over $400,000 a year, and the real estate is premium. A hop away from Manhattan, but quiet, Brookville has a lot going for it (if you can afford it).
2 BLACKWATER, ARIZONA HAS THE LOWEST INCOME IN AMERICA
Every time the US performs a census, the general public receives an insight into the places in America with the highest and lowest incomes. As small towns come, the census-designated place of Blackwater, AZ is pretty small. In 2010, the population was just 1,062, but it's the median household income that caught the world's attention. At $9,491, it's less than a quarter of the national average. 94% of residents here identify as Native.
The average annual income in Blackwater, AZ is just $9,491.
1 HIDDEN HILLS, CA ISN'T HIDING ITS WEALTH
Hidden Hills, CA is basically a "who's who" of celebs. The neighborhood bordering the equally swanky Calabasas is a quaint and low-key area, but the faces living here are high-profile. 95% of homes are gated, and it makes sense when you learn who lives there. Drake's $8 million mansion, according to Business Insider is here. Kylie Jenner and The Weeknd also live here. Former residents include Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus.
For richer, for poorer, right? America has both extremes. For any person you know from the US, hit share on Facebook. The two sides need to be seen.
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