Hardly a week goes by without a ranking of small American towns and cities based on some random metric drawn from U.S. Census numbers.

This week, Bethesda has been named as the richest small city in American, according to real estate blog and city ranking specialist Movoto.

How’d we get there?

Movoto started with a list of 950 places with populations between 30,000 and 80,000, according to the 2010 Census. Props to Movoto for realizing Bethesda — despite not being an incorporated town — is indeed its own place.

The blog then ranked all 950 places based on median household income and median home value. The average was used to find the top 25 most wealthy small cities in the country. From there, Movoto scoured business listings for data in nine interesting categories:

  • Really expensive fine dining establishments per capita (Bethesda ranked No. 4)
  • Really expensive clothing retailers per capita (Bethesda ranked third.)
  • Really expensive jewelry stores per capita (No. 4)
  • Luxury car dealers per capita (No. 4)
  • Country clubs per capita (No. 6)
  • Cosmetic surgeons per capita (No. 4)
  • Distance to nearest polo field (Bethesda came in first place for this.)
  • Distance to nearest yacht club (No. 9)
  • Distance to nearest private airport (No. 2)

The rankings were then averaged together and voila, Bethesda is your richest small city in the U.S.:
If you know anything about Bethesda, this really shouldn’t come as any surprise. Not actually a city, but a Census-designated place of 60,858 located less than 10 miles from the U.S. Capitol Building, it shows just how inexorably linked money and power truly are.


You can see how Bethesda ranked across all our criteria above, and that’s in either the top 10 (or even top five) for everything. It was first in distance to a polo field (eight miles), second in distance to private jet facilities (six miles), and third in terms of really expensive clothing retailers per capita. Its lowest rank was in distance to a yacht club, and that was only ninth for the nine-mile trek required to hit the water in a luxury vessel.

Bethesda got into our top 25 with a median household income of $141,817 and median home value of $805,900 in 2010, but looking at our own listing data that last number is currently around $1.1 million in today’s market.
Second place on the list was Palo Alto, Calif. Third place were our neighbors in McLean, Va.