1. Bethesda, Md.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $197,622|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $825,000|
Bethesda tops our list of high-earning towns, with an eye-popping median family income of nearly $200,000. Not surprisingly, this Washington, D.C., suburb has great access to jobs, both in the capital and in town. Bethesda is home to the National Institutes of Health and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The 45,000 people who work in Bethesda’s downtown have their choice of nearly 200 restaurants. The area is also ideal for culture vultures, with displays of outdoor sculpture, galleries, and performance spaces of all types. Be prepared for brainy cocktail party banter: More than half of residents over age 25 hold graduate or professional degrees.
On the downside, the city is relatively homogenous; about 85% of residents are white. Plus, with a median price of $825,000, houses are not cheap, though we suppose the locals can afford it.
2. Greenwich, Conn.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $168,367|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $1.1 million|
Between the impressive homes, boutique-lined streets, and preppy-chic residents, Greenwich is the picture of a top-earning town. The area is a finance hotspot, with some of the country’s best-known hedge funds and private equity firms based in town. Prefer to work in the big city? No problem: Manhattan is just a 40-minute train ride away.
This historic community was declared a township back in 1665 and still maintains some of that quaint, old fashioned character, thanks in part to a number of buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Greenwich’s perch on the Long Island Sound means some lucky residents have stunning water views. In summer, locals flock to the public beachfront at the Greenwich Point Peninsula to enjoy picnic areas, swimming, boating, and walking trails.
Would-be residents beware: Housing prices in this high-earning town are not for the faint of heart. The median home price in Greenwich? A cool $1.1 million.
3. Palo Alto, Calif.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $167,408|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $1.73 million|
This Bay Area city is synonymous with the area’s booming tech scene. Palo Alto is home to the headquarters of Tesla Motors, Skype, Hewlett-Packard, and plenty of other big names, as well as newer start-ups like news app Flipboard. Still, not every resident pulls a paycheck from a technology firm—Stanford University and its affiliated hospital are also major employers of Palo Alto’s highly educated population (about half of residents age 25 and older hold graduate degrees).
Palo Alto is also a favorite of outdoorsy types. The city is well set up for walking and biking; among small cities it boasts the country’s fifth highest percentage of residents who bike to work. Palo Altans enjoy more than 4,500 acres of parkland, including sprawling Foothills Park, where they can boat or fish in Boronda Lake. The Palo Alto Art Center is another big draw, with free admission, many gratis (and nominal-fee) classes, and its own artist-in-residence program.
No doubt you’ve heard about the Bay Area’s overheated real estate market. Sure enough, prices in Palo Alto are through the roof, with the median home price a staggering $1.7 million.
4. Brookline, Mass.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $156,042|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $615,000|
Brookline, which comes in at no. 21 on our Best Places to Live list, is a beautiful town in the Boston metro area, with wealthy residents, a top-notch high school, and an easy commute into Boston. John F. Kennedy’s birthplace on Beals Street is a registered national historic landmark and tourist attraction. Brookline is also home to one of the oldest puppet theaters in the country, the Puppet Showplace Theater, and the very first U.S. country club formed expressly for outdoor sports. Brookline residents have easy access to museums, restaurants, and entertainment in Boston, which is less than a 15-minute drive away.
5. Lower Merion, Pa.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $155,593|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $480,000|
Settled by Welsh Quakers in the late 17th century, today Lower Merion Township is one of the wealthiest areas in its state. It shares a border with Philadelphia along City Avenue. The township’s public schools boast some illustrious alumni: Kobe Bryant attended Lower Merion High School, leading the Aces to the state championship in 1996, and former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers graduated from Harriton High School.
Several colleges and universities are nestled in the tree-lined hills, including Bryn Mawr and Rosemont College; Haverford and Saint Joseph’s University are also close by. Another plus of Lower Merion is its accessibility: Aspiring residents will find a big range of housing options and prices lower than in some other top-earning areas. The recent average home sale price was $480,500.
6. San Ramon, Calif.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $151,805|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $725,000|
For folks looking for a well-paid career in tech or energy, this Bay Area city is a good bet. The global software center of General Electric, the west coast headquarters of AT&T Inc., and the global headquarters of the Chevron Corporation are among the city’s largest employers.
There’s also plenty to recommend the area outside of work hours. San Ramon has 56 parks and miles of hiking and biking trails. And it’s secure community for families, listed among America’s top 100 safest cities, according to NeighborhoodScout.
San Ramon also has a special place in the hearts of roleplaying game aficionados, who flock there every year for DunDraCon, a four-day gaming convention.
7. Newton, Mass.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $150,821|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $740,000|
Newton is loaded with employers—Boston College, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, BigBelly Solar, Clark’s, and UPromise, to name a few. The city, which is no. 15 on our Best Places to Live list, and neighboring Needham are developing a technology hub, dubbed the N2 Innovation Corridor, to attract even more tech companies. And a 45-minute ride by commuter rail or express bus brings you to downtown Boston and its plentiful jobs in healthcare, education and government
Settled in the 17th century, Newton is actually a community of 13 different villages. It is home to Boston College and two smaller schools, Mount Ida College and Lasell College. It’s also the site of one of the most dastardly difficult legs of the Boston Marathon, known as Heartbreak Hill, which passes near Newton’s City Hall.
8. Arlington, Va.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $145,941|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $521,000|
This urban county spans roughly 26 square miles, all within in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Because it’s so close to the nation’s capital, several important government agencies have their headquarters in Arlington, including the Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The county is also home to many national memorials and monuments, including the Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon Memorial, and the United States Air Force Memorial.
Arlington’s median family income of nearly $146,000 is impressive, but not a big surprise when you look at the level of educational attainment in this community. More than 70% of the local population age 25 and over hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The quick commute to D.C. draws folks from far and wide; within the last year, 8.1% of residents who moved to the county were from another state. They’ll need to shell out for a home, though: Arlington’s average assessed home value for 2014 increased 5.3% from the previous year, to $552,700.
9. Pleasanton, Calif.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $144,132|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $750,000|
Pleasanton has come a long way from its Gold Rush days, when it was still called Alisal and was a hangout for prospectors, earning the nickname “The Most Desperate Town in the West.” Today, this relatively diverse city in the tri-valley region of the San Francisco Bay Area has cleaned up in a big way (in fact, it’s also no. 31 on our Best Places list).
Residents are undeniably flush—the median household income is $144,132—but a sizable chunk of households (more than 35%) bring in more than $150,000 per year. And schools are top-notch: Two of Pleasanton’s three public high schools outperform California averages in students’ college readiness and academic performance, with Amador Valley High School and Foothill High School both ranked among the top 400 high schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
One downside: Pleasanton (and the Bay Area in general) is earthquake-prone, so you’ll need to shell out for costly insurance.
10. Reston, Va.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $142,404|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $395,550|
Restonians have no shortage of job options. In town, several large employers, including ComScore, Rolls Royce North America, and a Google office are clustered in the Town Center mall (which also serves as the community’s de facto downtown). Other local job providers include Raytheon, Accenture, VeriSign, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Wildlife Federation.
Some residents also work in Washington, D.C., though traffic can make the commute a real headache. Lucky for them, an extension of the DC Metro Silver Line opened this summer. Now folks in Reston can make the trek to the big city in about 40 minutes.
11. Columbia & Ellicott City, Md.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $133,382|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $358,719|
This pair of unincorporated cities in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, D.C., offer the best of the old and new. Ellicott City is laced with history. It’s home to the country’s oldest surviving railroad station, and has dozens of antiques dealers. On the first Friday of each month from April through September, shops in the city’s historic district stay open late for an evening of sidewalk sales and live music.
The planned community of Columbia, meanwhile, was created in the 1960s by socially conscious developer James W. Rouse. Columbia’s nine separate “villages” share a shopping center. While downtown Columbia used to be a little barren, there’s a new promenade in the pipeline, adorned with plants and interactive sculpture.
12. Flower Mound, Texas
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $131,853|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $291,375|
Flower Mound, a suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, was dubbed a “reloville” by Peter T. Kilborn in his book about suburban towns where management professionals frequently relocate. It’s easy to understand why well-heeled workers gravitate to “FloMo”: it has more than 50 parks spread over 945 acres, 43 miles of hiking and biking trails, and even nine miles of equestrian trails. The public library hosts a variety of programs for children, teens, and adults, such as writing groups and book clubs. Flower Mound’s Community Activity Center has a full schedule of offerings, including affordable personal trainers, an indoor and outdoor water park, camps, dance classes, and group fitness instruction.
There’s a recent point of contention in Flower Mound related to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. A portion of Flower Mound is located in a gas deposit called the Barnett Shale, and intensive fracking and gas production have raised concerns about air pollution and negative health effects on residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
13. The Woodlands, Texas
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $129,148|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $312,000|
The Woodlands is a suburb of Houston and one of the country’s first master-planned communities. The city is rife with green space, with 129 forested parks and 200 miles of hiking and biking trails. Visitors to Woodlands’ parks can stroll through a butterfly garden, an interactive water park, and a literary labyrinth with giant books depicting modern versions of Aesop’s Fables.
An astounding 1,900 national and international companies have a presence in The Woodlands, and it’s home to energy giants Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Chevron Phillips.
14. Naperville, Ill.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $127,142|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $355,000|
Naperville, 30 miles west of Chicago, is loaded with small-town charm. Yet unlike many Chicago suburbs, it also has a vibrant downtown that gives it a cosmopolitan feel. People run or stroll along the four-mile brick Riverwalk, which hugs the DuPage River that runs through downtown. The pedestrian-friendly city center has more than 50 restaurants (pizza lovers will find both wood-fired varieties and Chicago’s signature deep-dish style on offer), as well as art galleries, boutiques, and live music clubs.
Good news for potential home buyers: Housing in Naperville is among the cheapest on our list of Top Earners, with a median home sale price of $355,000.
15. Hoboken, N.J.
|MEDIAN FAMILY INCOME: $125,938|
|MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $540,000|
Hoboken packs a lot of wealth into a small area. This city of a mere square mile in size has the smallest population on our top earning list, yet the median family income is a healthy $125,938. It’s also well educated bunch; nearly 75% of Hoboken residents age 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Given its location just across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan, Hoboken often attracts New York City workers looking for lower rents and quieter streets. Like Manhattan, it also offers the option to live car-free. Hoboken is easily walkable and very bike-friendly, with bike lanes and parking conveniently located around the city. When wheels are a must, there’s a car-sharing service and a community shuttle system called “The Hop” that help residents get around.
While local entertainment options are obviously dwarfed by the offerings in the Big Apple, Hoboken folks rarely miss out:the trip to New York City takes only about 20 minutes on public transportation.
We limited this list to three places per state, one per county.