Not Your Grandfather's Rich

Ryan Heshmati

August 12, 2022

Throughout time, social classes have always been divided by haves and have-nots. It is often said “the rich get richer,” and this seems especially true in the last half-century.  The American Economic Association points out the top 1% received 10% of total income in the United States, in 1980, but in 2019 that number reached 19% of all income. The new money of today is not like other generations. In addition to being wealthier, a tech-centric culture for many of them, specifically those in Silicon Valley, may be shifting focuses toward different priorities.

For decades, multi-million dollar homes, expensive cars, and highly educated individuals were all staples of what was considered the wealthiest city in America by many, Beverly Hills. In recent years, the area representative of American wealth and the elite has found a new competitor: Silicon Valley. With the rise of the technology industry, the bay area has seen a major shift economically. Atherton, a wealthy bay area town, not Beverly Hills, has reached the top of the Bloomberg Richest Cities Index many times this decade. This goes to show that today’s new money is a niche.

The Guardian’s article, “If Silicon Valley were a country, it would be among the richest on Earth” outlines the significance of the area’s estimated $275 billion in economic output. Its author, Levi Pulkkinen notes, “[According to] … the Human Development Index, Silicon Valley is the nation’s most well-developed place.” Considering Silicon Valley’s quality of life, it is not surprising the “new rich” appears to be set on improving society. The Financial Times quoted an early Facebook employee who, after the IPO, instead of retiring uber-rich, thought, “I felt I could make a bigger impact on the world by starting something new…” His name: Adam D’ Angelo and he went on to found Quora, a large online Q&A platform. This mentality, which is evident just through the number of startups that are built in the area, is far more likely to positively impact society than old money attitudes involving less output improving methods like property investing.

A new wave hits America as a part of the rise of technology companies. This new rich, in addition to being richer than past generations, appears poised to do great things with their capital. Since much of this generation owes it to Silicon Valley for their wealth, they are more likely to be capable technologists who are driven by more than just money, as evidenced by Quora’s founder. The coming decades will hopefully reap the benefits of further advancements made by this new generation