Life in the United States' largest cities is clearly getting better for wealthy Americans, because their numbers in the big metro areas just keep on growing.
According to the Capgemini 2011 U.S. Metro Wealth Index of high net worth individuals, HNWI populations grew by 7.3% within the Top 10 metropolitan statistical areas in 2010. And that growth was modest compared with 2009, when HNWI growth reached 17.5% after a steep decline in 2008.
Why? Because city dwellers who lost money in the crash of 2008 are now racing to recoup their losses by investing heavily in stocks and commodities—and they’re succeeding. Indeed, the numbers of HNWI investors in nearly all of the country’s largest metro areas have now surpassed their 2007 pre-crisis levels.
“An important contributor to the increase in HNWI population was the continued rise in U.S. equity and commodity markets, which led to many investors seeing the value of their investments grow,” said William Sullivan, head of global market intelligence for Capgemini Financial Services.
The following slideshow presents Capgemini’s Top 10 metro rankings in order of the highest number of high net worth individuals. Capgemini defines an HNWI as someone with investable assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables and consumer durables.
10. San Jose
9. Detroit (yes, Detroit)
The San Jose metro area, home of Silicon Valley’s many high-tech companies, numbers a population of just 1.47 million, but of that total, 88,800 are considered to be HNWIs, up a modest 2.7% in 2010. Showing marked volatility, San Jose’s HNWI number stood at 80,700 in 2007, then plunged 13.9% to 69,500 in 2008 before recovering by 24.5% in 2009.
Meanwhile in Motor City, post-recession growth in the auto industry has driven Detroit to Capgemini’s No. 9 ranking for HNWIs in its metro area. Detroit’s population of wealthy individuals grew 3.4% to 92,000 in 2010 from 89,100 2009—and that compares with a 15.9% drop to 79,500 individuals during the financial crisis of 2008.
8. Houston? We’ve Got No Problems for HNWIs
In 2010, Houston recorded the highest total growth in its population of high net worth individuals, at 9.6%, compared with all other metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States. This was the second year in a row that Houston has climbed the ranks in the Capgemini index, having ranked 10th on the list in 2008.
“Houston has been a strong growth story over the past two years, having been able to recover from the largest percentage fall of HNWIs in 2008,” said Capgemini’s global market intelligence head, William Sullivan. “In addition to one of the lowest unemployment rates among the 10 MSAs, Houston’s economy has significant exposure to the oil and gas industry, which may have contributed to the growth in Houston’s HNWI population.”
5. San Francisco
4. Washington, D.C.
Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7 on America’s biggest cities for high net worth individuals are Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Philadelphia; and Boston, in that order.
Significantly, three of the four are Eastern Seaboard cities within shouting distance of one another. The nation’s capital, which extends from D.C. into affluent pockets of Virginia and Maryland, has a population of 4.4 million, and of that total, 164,400 individuals are HNWIs, up 7.9% from 2009.
Philadelphia has a population of 4.8 million, with HNWIs growing 6.0% to 110,400 in 2009, while Boston has a population of 3.8 million, with HNWIs growing 7.3% to 109,800 in 2009.
As for the West Coast’s San Fran, out of a total metro population of 3.6 million, the number of HNWIs grew 6.6% in 2010, to 147,400 from 138,300 in 2009.
3. Chicago: My Kind of Town for HNWIs
Chicago, that sprawling metropolis on the shores of Lake Michigan and hometown to both President Barack Obama and newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is also home to the No. 3 top-ranked population of high net worth individuals in America.
The toddlin’ town has an estimated metro population of 7.6 million, and 212,300 of those people were HNWIs in 2010, 7.1% higher than the 198,100 in 2009. Chicago’s HNWI population fell 16.2% during the crash of 2008 to 172,200 compared with 205,400 in 2007.
2. Los Angeles Is Sunny for HNWIs
Los Angeles, No. 2 on the HNWI population list, is arguably the sunniest haven for the nation’s wealthiest citizens. Strikingly, only one other city (hint: it’s in Texas) on Capgemini’s list is further south of L.A.
Los Angeles’ population numbers 10.3 million, and of that, 256,000 individuals fell into the high net worth category in 2010 versus 235,800 in 2009, for an 8.8% increase. L.A.’s HNWI plunged 17.8% to 208,000 from 253,300 during the 2008 recession.
1. HNWIs Love New York
The No. 1 metropolitan area for population of high net worth individuals is New York City. No surprise there. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
Out of the New York area’s estimated population of 15.5 million, the number of HNWIs grew 7.9% from 2009 to 2010, bringing the 2010 HNWI population to 720,000 from 667,000. NYC lost 13.6% of its wealthiest population in 2008, dropping to 561,800 individuals from 650,100 in 2007. But just one year later, the number of HNWI’s recovered 18.7% to 667,200.
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