Homeowners who earn a high income are showing a preference for the suburbs—and even the far-out “exurbs”—over downtown living. A Census Bureau analysis of the 53 largest U.S. metros shows that only 3 percent of homeowners employed full-time who make more than $75,000 annually live downtown, while 11.4 percent live in inner-ring neighborhoods. But 14 percent live in the exurbs, and 71.5 percent are in the suburbs. In 2015, a $75,000 salary represented the 77th percentile of incomes nationwide, according to Chapman University researcher Erika Nicole Orejola.
She found that 16 of the 20 counties with the largest share of full-time employed residents who were earning more than $75,000 were suburban. The majority of residents were driving to work and living in low-to-moderate-density communities. The remaining four counties in the top 20 fell on the other end of the spectrum and are considered some of the “most urbanized parts of the country,” such as New York and San Francisco. The biggest factors influencing where buyers settle are housing costs, jobs for a spouse, commute times, proximity to family, and quality of K-12 schools, according to a survey by the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University of more than 1,000 professionals ages 25 to 64 with household incomes greater than $80,000.