What It Takes to Be Rich: Methodology

How we calculated our thresholds for wealth.


We started with data on mean household income, by quintile, from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey for 2007. Where possible, we used data for metropolitan statistical area, which represents more people than for the urban areas at the core of each MSA. To estimate household incomes for a "rich couple" and a "rich family," we divided average income in each quintile by the average size of a U.S. household—2.54 people, according to the census. Then we multiplied that number by two, for a childless couple, and by four, for a family. The "rich" estimates, therefore, do not represent actual survey data for such households in each metro area but rather an index number that allows place-to-place comparisons.