Famed 19th-century newspaperman Horace Greeley may have urged, "Go West, young man," in search of opportunity, but today's young people are finding fortune (if not necessarily fame) in a city few would associate with open land and spacious skies -- Washington, D.C.

The nation's capital has become the prime destination for wealthy 25- to 34-year-olds, according to new analysis by the Nielson Co. Sixteen of the top 50 counties with the highest concentrations of young people making more than $100,000 a year are in counties surrounding Washington, the study says. Of the Top 10 counties, three are in the D.C. metro area.
The survey showed that more wealthy young people are choosing to live in larger metropolitan areas and more of them are choosing Eastern cities.

"In 1990 you had a lot more concentration of this demographic in the heartland and in Texas, likely driven by the oil economy, and some of the agribusiness," said Michael Mancini, Nielsen's vice president of data product management. Today, however, the money is more concentrated in major cities, he said.

That shift is perhaps best exemplified by one Virginia county, Loudoun, on the western edge of Washington's metro area, which ranked No. 1 in the latest Nielsen survey with some 10,500 residents aged 25-34 making more than $100,000 a year. In 1990, Loudoun County ranked No. 24. By 2000, it had moved up to fourth place.

Arlington County, just across the Potomac River from Washington, ranked eighth in 1990 and third in 2000. It rose to second in the latest report. Arlington's reputation as a place for rich, young professionals has even inspired a recent mock-rap video on YouTube.

Mancini told Reuters that the Washington region is popular among young professionals in part due to the ample number of private- and public-sector jobs. Access to health care, higher education and recreation also play a part, he said.

"What often happens is that those factors attract the young and educated who then end up staying," he told Reuters.

Rounding out the top 5 areas for wealthy young people were third, San Francisco County, which held the top spot in 2000 amid the dot-com frenzy, followed by New York County, N.Y. (Manhattan) and Douglas County, Colo., a southern suburb of Denver.

Nielsen compiled the rankings using data from the U.S. Postal Service and credit-reporting company Equifax.

Though San Francisco no longer occupies the top spot, it nevertheless has gained more well-heeled youths. Today, the percentage of young and wealthy households in San Francisco has increased to 7.8 percent from 7 percent in 2000, the latest Nielsen survey showed. In 1990, they comprised just 1.3 percent.

Other findings in the latest Nielsen survey:
  • Young and wealthy households make up only 2.2 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • Only 15.9 percent of households are headed by persons aged 25-34, and only 13.5 percent of those in that age group make over $100K.
  • The median household income of that age group is $49,750.

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