In the last two posts, I explored the consumer preferences of the wealthy first by looking at what all subgroups had in common, and then by looking at politics and seeing what divides the wealthy on ideological lines. In this post, I want to look at the differences among the wealthy based on where they live. I placed the subgroups into either an urban or suburban category. For urban, I grouped together Manhattan, Northwest DC, Westside LA, North Dallas, and West Houston. For suburban, I put together Westchester County, Montgomery County (MD), Orange County (CA), and the richest suburban zip codes in Detroit, Nashville, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Houston. The differences based on residence may be more interesting than those based on politics. This information was all gathered using Scarborough Research’s PRIME Lingo consumer data database.
Here are some of the findings:
- Children: Overall, conservative rich have more children. However, much of this discrepancy is because the liberal rich are more likely to live in urban areas. When you drill down to conservative areas like Dallas and Houston, the difference in fertility between urbanites and suburbanites is noticeable. Their urban areas are generally pretty similar to Manhattan in family profile, while their suburbs are much more child filled. Even in a liberal suburb like Montgomery County, the family profile looks much more like red suburbs than liberal urban areas, such as their neighbors in Northwest DC. Family size is more a function of space than ideology.
- Home ownership: The urban/suburban difference is the dividing line for percentage of those who own their houses. The most densely populated of the city subgroups, Manhattan and Westside LA, have a nearly 50/50 own/rent split. Other urban affluent in West Houston and Northwest DC are roughly 75% home owners. The suburban areas have home ownership rates of at least 85 percent, and usually over 90 percent. Obviously, there aren’t many homes to own in the heart of Manhattan, while most of the suburban wealthy enclaves are nothing but single family homes.
- Marriage Rate: There is a pronounced gap between marriage rates in urban and suburban areas. Suburban areas have high marriage rates, usually greater than the regional average. Urban areas have lower marriage rates, certainly lower than the typical rate for their area. What accounts for this gap? Suburban areas are geared towards families and children. Those who are wealthy and live in the suburbs are likely to be middle aged and have children. The suburbs are the living environment that maximizes a family’s standard of living. Urban wealthy tend to be somewhat older than the suburban wealthy. There is a greater concentration of empty nesters in the city.
- Golf: Also following an urban/suburban split pattern is playing golf. In the case of the New York metro area, wealthy liberals in Westchester County are big on hitting the links. Their counterparts in Manhattan, who are similar in so many ways, are not regular golfers. The urban districts of Dallas and Houston are a bit above average in propensity to golf. That may be because of the more favorable weather in those cities for golfing.
- Bicycling: Urban wealthy have an average rate of going bicycling. Suburban wealthy are much more likely than average to bike. Again, space probably accounts for the difference. Unless you’re a bicycle messenger, there isn’t much space in Manhattan to go biking. If you live in the leafy suburbs, particularly in the nice areas, there are likely to be many bike paths to take advantage of.
- Arts/cultural giving: Donations to arts and cultural institutions comes at a unique intersection of location and ideology. The most generous donors to the arts are urban liberals. Urban conservatives give somewhat less but still well above average. Suburban liberals also give strongly. In last are suburban conservatives, though their giving is about the regional average. What we can see here is that urbanites are more likely to give to culture. This could be because most cultural institutions are based in central cities and not in suburbs. While there is a difference based off of ideology, the bigger difference is due to location.
- Religious giving: The results here are interesting. Urban liberals are less likely than average to give to religious organizations. Everyone else, including suburban liberals, is more likely to do so. At a broad level, the rich give strongly to religious institutions and charities.
- Pets: Despite the stereotype of a single city dweller that lives with a dog or a cat, wealthy suburbanites are more likely to own pets. In fact, wealthy urbanites are less likely than average to own a pet. Suburban affluent are more likely than average to be pet owners. This is likely a function of many apartment buildings not allowing pets or only pets of a certain size. With large yards, the suburban rich face no such restrictions.
Location is a major variable in figuring out the consumer preferences of the wealthy. The wealthy are just one small subgroup that we can look at to observe different ways of life depending on the community someone lives in. Even when we look at people where money isn’t a determining factor in how they live, there are still patterns that will assert themselves due to living conditions. The size of someone’s yard, the variance between apartments and single family housing, the buildings that tend to be in your neighborhood; all of these are among the most important aspects of how life is lived in America.