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Is This NJ Town the Wealthiest Zip Code in America?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

WNYC
A neighborhood in Short Hills, N.J. (Sarah Gonzalez/WNYC)

Zip code 07078 in Short Hills, New Jersey, may not have the same ring as 90210 in Beverly Hills, but it’s been declared the wealthiest zip code in America by Time Magazine.

About 70 percent of its residents make more than $150,000 a year, according to U.S. Census data collected by the site Find the Best. That’s what earned Short Hills the title.

But Julia Sass-Rubin, a professor of planning and policy at Rutgers University, says looking solely at the percentage of the population making above $150,000 is insufficient.

“There’s absolutely no such thing as the wealthiest city or wealthiest community in the country,” she said. “But the point is it’s not Short Hills.” 

Sass-Rubin says it depends on how you define wealth. Is it income? Or assets?

“Assets are where the real wealth lies,” she said. “It’s also where we see the greatest inequality — for example, by race.”

Short Hills is a 6-square-mile area with less than 13,000 residents and little economic and ethnic diversity. It's mostly residential.

“It’s not really a town. It’s all churches and houses,” says Julia Draper, a high school students who lives in Short Hills.

Short Hills doesn't have its own mayor or high school. They share those resources with the Township of Millburn. If residents want to go to a coffee shop or boutiques, they go into downtown Millburn.

And that’s how the founder of Short Hills wanted it.

Stewart Hartshorn came to Short Hills in the 1870s after becoming wealthy from inventing the roller-shade. He bought up acres of land to build on and invited people he liked to live here with him, according to historian Lynne Ranieri. 

“He wanted to build his ideal village here,” she said.  

And part of the ideal village was to have no commercial businesses.

“The only businesses that he actually allowed here was a very small, tiny, little grocery-type store,” Ranieri said. “And plant nurseries, because he loved nature.”

And while today, Short Hills may have the highest concentration of people who make more than $150,000 a year, Rutgers Professor Sass-Rubin says there are other zip codes in the U.S. with more billionaires and more assets. 

For example, households in 90210 in Beverly Hills make more money on average than households in Short Hills.

But 90210 is a larger area. It’s more ethnically and economically diverse and there is a population there that lives below the poverty line.

Short Hills Demographics

  • 1 percent of the population lives below the poverty line
  • 83 percent are white, 12 percent are Asian
  • 97 percent of the labor force is employed
  • Most have a masters or doctoral degree

The concentrated wealth does have its benefits, says Ilana Woltag, who lives in Millburn and works at a temple in Short Hills.

“It’s a very wealthy congregation," she said. “If you get a job, usually the salaries will be much more than maybe other temples in Summit or South Orange."

But high school student Spencer Schneider says he doesn't want people getting the wrong idea about his town.

“I don’t have a nanny. I do my own laundry," he said. "I do it myself.”

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Comments [7]

Jim Weill

There are other sections of Short Hills with much smaller lots and homes (the Glenwood Section). You also did not mention the Morris Ave/Morris Turnpike retail area which is in Short Hills and is a commercial strip with strip shopping centers, supermarket, etc.. In total it probably has more retail space than downtown Millburn. As others have stated Short Hills is not a town but a section of Millburn.

Jun. 11 2014 05:35 PM
Ignacia

I found this report offensive and I am not even from Short Hills. Short Hills may have its own zipcode, but it is very definitely part of Millburn. It does not have its own government or school system. Yes, Short Hills is its own section of Millburn, but the Millburn community as a whole has a wider range of incomes than this article implies. Many municipalities in NJ have multiple zipcodes, including the surrounding municipalities of Maplewood and Union. And there are more exclusive NJ communities. This was not news. This was nonsense.

Jun. 11 2014 04:07 PM
Lofty from Nee Jersey

I think Alpine, New Jersey is the richest of them all!

Jun. 11 2014 02:58 PM
douglas johnson from New York, NY

A better comparison than BH is Atherton CA. which is similar in size, has no commercial businesses and also no ethnic diversity, but does have a higher combined household income than Short Hills.

Jun. 11 2014 09:38 AM
Joseph Redcay from NJ

For all its wealth and high-end stores Millburn/Short Hills doesn't have a bookstore -- a fundamental flaw?

Jun. 11 2014 08:30 AM
Herb from Livingston NJ

Short Hills is a post office name only. Short Hills is a section of Millburn, NJ and not a distinction township. It is more like Park Slope or Carroll Gardens then a separate city or town. Yes, Short Hills is home of many wealthy people, especially Wall Street people as it has a train line to NYC, as does Summit, South Orange and other locations nearby. More important that wealth and probably because of it, Millburn has one of the best school systems and most successful students in the area.

Jun. 11 2014 07:50 AM
mike g from South Orange

What the reporter failed to mention is that despite the economic prosperity of Short Hills, it is home to the most unimaginative and downright ugly/vanilla architecture in Essex County. Give me South Orange, Maplewood, Montclair, Glen Ridge or Essex Fells.

Jun. 11 2014 07:43 AM

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