The Rise of the New Mass Affluent

The population of affluent Americans now makes up the top 19% of American households, according to a study by Nielsen Company.

The so-called “new mass affluent’ are amassing in size in recent years, with a 23% increase from a decade ago (after inflation adjustment). Some 22 million households now earning over $100,000, which might seem like a modest amount compared to some high earners, but is still more than double the mean national income of around $49,000. The group controls more than $22 trillion in assets, the study says.

The report points out that while there are more higher-earning Americans than ever before, they are underserved by financial institutions that have not recognized the changing wealth landscape. The class of investors are also sophisticated do-it-yourself types of investors who might be managing their own wealth, the study says.

“There are more higher-earning Americans than ever, signaling a growing opportunity for many business sectors to capitalize on reaching this market,’ said Jane Crossan, Vice President of the Financial Services Group at Claritas, Nielsen’s marketing information provider, which conducted the analysis. Crossan and Mike Mancini, Claritas Vice President of Data Product Management, co-authored the analysis of America’s changing wealth landscape, titled Affluence in America.

“Now more than ever, companies need a sophisticated understanding of the new mass affluent class—who they are, where they live, what products they prefer and how best to market to them,” Crossan said. “To win over the new mass affluent, marketers need to develop new products and services, differentiated messages, and varied channels to reach these under-the-radar customers.”

While you might expect to find these affluent Americans dwelling in New York City and Chicago, the reality is that most of them are saturated outside the heart of big cities in lesser-known cities. The report locates the top 20 areas for households with at least $100,000 in assets. Los Alamos, New Mexico, was the number one ranked market. Connecticut is also a popular place for the affluent, with the area on the outskirts of New York City holding the number two spot. Cities on the list that might seem unlikely are number 10, Juneau, Arkansas; number 20, Easton, Maryland (a small town turning into a retirement community); and number nine, Trenton, New Jersey.