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5 Places Where the Rich Got Richer -- Mostly on the Government's Dime

In a few islands of prosperity, Americans are flourishing. This is where -- and why.

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Today, median family income here is $80,466; for the richest fifth of households income has increased 4.7 percent since 2007.

So Fayette County is not exactly rich. It’s more of an upper-middle-class utopia (or dystopia, depending on your perspective) that has protected itself against the economic downturn by keeping people out. Charles Jaret, sociology professor at Georgia State University, points out that Forsyth County, north of Atlanta, has a higher portion of residents making over $125,000, and a higher median income. But Fayette is the county that saw its median household income rise the most.

“It’s an exclusive little community,” says Larry Keating, professor emeritus at the Georgia Tech School of City and Regional Planning. “It’s a cutesy little community.”

The golf carts counter the subdivided isolation characteristic of suburban developments. But Keating, who served as an expert witness in a recent case that forced the city to allow for moderate-income development for the elderly, says that Peachtree has done its part to keep undesirables away from the  88-mile network of asphalt cart roads that crisscross the town and the community’s three golf courses.

“They’ve had a moratorium on new multi-family housing for 10 years, and that’s illegal,” Keating says. “The rationale is that if you’re inundated with development, you need time to plan it. But they’ve used it as a way to keep multi-family housing out” — and thus poorer people of color who might bring down the median income.

The majority of the county’s population lives in Peachtree, which has a median household income of $93,072. Fayetteville, the county seat that is about half the size of Peachtree, has a median income of $54,230.

Peachtree is a hotbed of right-wing politics. Republican state Rep. Matt Ramsey is the author of Georgia’s controversial anti-immigrant law. In August, American Atheists sued the city demanding that it cease opening City Council meetings with a prayer to “Our Heavenly Father.”

 

4. The median income in Rockwall County, east of Dallas, is $78,275, and for the top 20 percent, it has grown 9 percent since 2007.

It is no surprise that Rockwall is an attractive destination for local businessmen, many of whom are very, very conservative, says newspaper publisher J.J. Smith.

“Every elected official in Rockwall County is a Republican,” Smith says. “The Democrat Party here, great people. But very few active members. We have a Rockwall Tea Party that has drawn hundreds of people to events. That goes along with the family orientedness of the community.”

The county is growing at an incredible rate. The aptly named town of Fate is the state’s fastest growing municipality, ballooning from 497 residents in 2000 to 6,357 in 2010, according to the Dallas Morning News. The region’s post-urban character is well described by its nickname, the Dallas-Fort Worth “Metroplex.” The Metroplex contains nine cities of more than 100,000 people, and has experienced most of its growth since 1980. Rockwall’s population has tripled in the time.

According to Texas A&M economics and finance professor Steve Shwiff, Rockwall has benefited from the Texas economy’s strong state banking, a housing market that didn’t bust too badly and the global trade in energy and high-tech.

“Rockwall County is geographically one of the smallest counties in Texas but has a very high median family income,” says Shwiff. “Dallas-Fort Worth, like Texas in general, has done better in this current recession than the nation at large. Since county residents are employed in Dallas-Fort Worth-based electronics, petroleum, warehousing/distribution and healthcare sectors, they have escaped, so far, the worst this recession has brought.”

 
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