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America’s Social Elite Still Love New York

Of course the rich are different from you and me. They’re rich! And America’s upper crust is even more different from the rest of us, down to the schools they attend, the clubs they belong to and especially the places where they live.

Urban geographer Stephen Richard Higley has hunted down and catalogued the habitats and haunts of America’s socially advantaged by using a computer to analyze entries in the Social Register, the annual compilation of the names, home addresses, family details and club affiliations of the 25,000 or so families officially in high society. The helpful summer edition also lists the names and gross tonnage of the yachts owned by America’s super-snobs.

ZIP code 10021 on the Upper East Side of New York remains the home of about 1,500 Social Register households, the single greatest aggregation of Swells in America, Higley reports in his new book, “Privilege, Power and Place: The Geography of the American Upper Class.” Overall, about one out of 10 Register families live in Manhattan.

But city life is the exception for America’s high society. More than eight out of 10 Social Register families now live in the suburbs; just one in six still live in cities. And just like the rest of us, many Social Register families in recent decades have migrated to Florida, Texas, Arizona and other Sun Belt locales.

Much of Higley’s analysis is based on information in the 1988 Social Register. But he doubts much has changed since then. “These people are really slow movers … the most sedentary of all the social classes,” he said.

Higley said the Social Register listing includes a “huge proportion” but not all of America’s increasingly diverse social elite.

Minorities, Jewish people and others traditionally disdained by the historically WASPy upper class remain scarce in the Register, whose board in New York City adds and subtracts listees on the recommendations of those already in the book.

Men and women: more failure to communicate

As everyone knows, many married men would rather do just about anything - even see “The Bridges of Madison County” twice - than talk about their marriage with their wives.

Well, it seems that men also don’t talk about divorce plans, either. A new study of 384 couples who requested marital therapy at a Brigham Young University clinic and a second sample of 241 couples in three states found women were significantly more likely than men to discuss their intention to divorce or separate with their spouses and friends.

And it’s not just talk: Women’s negative attitudes toward their marriage are more reliable indicators of eventual divorce than their husbands’ expressions of marital distress, reported Russell Crane, professor of family sciences at BYU, in The American Journal of Family Therapy.

xxxx WHERE THE SNOBS ARE Metropolitan areas with the most Social Register households: 1. New York City 7,421 2. Philadelphia 4,067 3. Boston 2,732 4. Washington, D.C. 1,777 5. San Francisco 1,647 6. Baltimore 1,048 7. Chicago 958 8. St. Louis 743 9. West Palm Beach, Fla. 718 10. Pittsburgh 489 11. Cleveland 454 12. Los Angeles 418 13. Cincinnati/Dayton 368 14. Buffalo 271 15. Denver 227 Source: Analysis of 1988 Social Register by Stephen Richard Higley, University of Montevallo in Alabama.


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