We all want to live in Rich People City

AJ Mastav
5 min readJul 3, 2021
According to the CIA World Factbook, Monaco has a poverty rate of zero (photo by Jan Vasek, https://jeshoots.com/)

The idea of a city for the rich is tantalizing. Like a Richard Scarry book, but instead of the town baker being a lion or the local carpenter being a bear, that guy pushing a stroller is Tim Cook and the woman in line behind you at the grocery store is Kelly Ripa.

There are plenty of little enclaves for the obscenely well-off scattered around the country. Rich people have to sleep somewhere, even if that somewhere is a super-cool $50,000 bed. Every city has its toney bedroom community, but some are wealthier than others.

For example, Chicago has Kenilworth, a town where the average family income is close to $350,000 and development is so tightly controlled that there are no restaurants. New York has the Hamptons, formerly home to the most expensive zip code in the country, and the Bay Area has Atherton, currently the most expensive zip code, chock-a-block with Silicon Valley’s wealthiest executives. Atherton is so rich that it’s where the actual Charles Schwab lives.

There is something alluring about finding a backdoor into one of these places: inheriting some small, overlooked fixer-upper in Malibu or lucking into a little bungalow in Beverly Hills. Presumably, the property taxes on the mansions of the very rich fund fantastic public amenities, like libraries that look like Barnes and Noble bookstores, or community theaters with Broadway-style production values.

From the perspective of getting your kids a good education at a public school, there is really no question that it would always be preferable to be the poorest family in a school district. This is, obviously, not true from the perspective of the kid in middle school or high school who is forced to wear Avias in a town full of Yeezys. But from the perspective of overall value, the richer the school district, the more property tax can be spent per pupil. While this is not going to lead to the best outcomes every time, it is preferable to having the same income as everyone else in a district with low property tax revenues and lower-than-average spending per pupil.

Unfortunately, there are very few “back doors” into a community like Beverly Hills. And, just as it can be difficult for a middle-class nobody to get into Bridgehampton’s Polo Club unless they are some sort of one-in-a-million polo phenom…

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AJ Mastav

Professional planner, unprofessional writer. Member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Also, a former Sunday School teacher.