5 Places Where the Rich Got Richer -- Mostly on the Government's Dime
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Rockwall is largely well-to-do, but not uniformly so. While Heath City has a population of 6,921 and a $115,932 median household income, Mobile City is home to just 188 people and made up entirely of trailer parks. The median income there is just $21,591.
“These people are substantially richer than Texas as a whole, and they’re substantially whiter than Texas as a whole,” says Michael Phillips, a history professor at nearby Collin College. “What really drives the rise of Rockwall after World War II and particularly after the 1960s is that you had this protracted battle in Dallas over desegregation. By the time you get to 1970, they’re still just barely getting started with implementing Brown v. Board of Education.”
“The politics are a spectrum between very conservative and fringe conservative,” says Phillips. The county is represented in Congress by Ralph Hall, Tea Party Caucus member and Republican congressman. He’s the oldest member of the House, and one of its most conservative too.
5. The New York City metropolitan region has done relatively well during the recession, and Rockland County, judging by its high median household income of $82,245, has done particularly well. The richest 20 percent here have managed to increase their income by 2.0 percent since 2007.
It’s likely that “most of the people who have higher incomes here are people who are employed in New York City and Manhattan,” says Susan Meyer, senior information specialist at the Rockland Department of Planning. Of the 17,000 Rockland residents who work in Manhattan, about 22 percent work in lower Manhattan where the financial industry is based, she says.
Robert Puentes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, says suburban communities like Rockland have “largely retained their position as home to some of the most highly educated and wealthy residents, highest shares of residents with white collar jobs, and the highest housing values. So they began the recession at a competitive advantage.”
Rockland County became a commuter suburb of New York City on Dec. 15, 1955, when the first car traversed the newly constructed Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River. Droves of families came to take advantage of federally backed low-interest mortgages supplied by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to find the single-family-home American dream. FHA loans and federal highway dollars built the American suburbs, but the loans were generally denied to non-whites and to older urban neighborhoods.
Nationwide, the older first-ring suburbs built after World War II have diverged: Many have become poorer and much more racially diverse, as wealthier residents move to far-out exurbs popping up along the interstate. Some, like Rockland and Westchester, have retained much of their affluent character.
Rockland is known for being home to police officers, so its high median income might have as much to do with upper-middle-class exclusivity than with millionaire profits from Wall Street.
Al Samuels, president of Rockland Business Association, says that it’s wrong to characterize the county as wealthy. Some local boosters tout the county’s high median income to corporations thinking about relocating, he says, “and it might be a number that impresses them. But if they have a due diligence team that does its work, they’re going to find out that it doesn’t mean anything.”
Economists use something called the Gini coefficient to measure inequality (the closer to 1, the greater the inequality), and the new Census data shows the New York City region, at .50, is the nation’s second most unequal after Bridgeport, Connecticut.”
There are certainly less affluent municipalities in Rockland. Spring Valley Village, population 31,347, has a median household income of $50,101. It is also considerably more black and Latino than the rest of the county. At the same time, Rockland has 11 municipalities with median household incomes over $100,000, including New City, population 33,559, which stands at $116,871. New City is 79 percent white.