Upper Arlington has long been considered a community of the privileged few; however, the suburb’s demographics prove more diverse than many might realize.
By Emma Klebe,’13 and Mattie Stevens, ’13
Rich. Preppy. High socks. Sperry’s. Hunter boots. Jeeps. UA shag. “Mad flow.” Lax bro.
Such terms portray some of the common stereotypes of the typical UAHS student. While these stereotypes assume that all UA students embody the same characteristics, the demographics of the community show more diversity than such stereotypes suggest.
Throughout the central Ohio suburbs, stereotypes differ from school to school. People from surrounding communities have varied opinions of the traits a UA student may exhibit. Worthington Kilbourne 2011 alumna Kelsey Hanna shares her perception of UA.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say ‘rich’, but [UA kids] definitely get a lot from their parents,” she said. “UA kids don’t really work, [they] live off their parents and think of themselves more highly than others because they are privileged.”
Compared to the state of Ohio, statistics exhibit that UA students are clearly “privileged.” According to the city-data.com Web site, which compiles data for U.S. cities, Upper Arlington’s median household income from 2009 was $87,557, while Ohio’s average was $40,956; UA had over double the amount.
While numbers show that UA is well above the state average, Hanna said UA’s wealth is similar to that of other suburbs, but that UA community members are more forthcoming about their affluence.
“UA has just the same amount of money as schools like Dublin Jerome, Dublin Coffman and Hilliard schools, but they are more ‘showy’ about it,” she said.
Although Hanna said the majority of UA is privileged, she knows financial status can vary.
“I think it’s a case-by-case situation, but I think UA definitely makes it more of a point to flaunt their money,” she said. “UA is more ‘old money,’ while Dublin and Hilliard and Olentangy are ‘new money.’”
By “old money” Hanna said the community has accumulated wealth from generations of UA families.
Jenna Hochman, a junior at Columbus School for Girls who lives in New Albany, associates UA students’ “privileges” with large, lavish homes.
“I think of old, pretty brick houses that are traditional-looking, nice and expensive,” Hochman said.
Hilliard Davidson junior Molly Jackson also has stereotypes of UA, expressing a sense of dislike for UA students.
“When I think of UA students the words rich, preppy, rude, and stuck up come to mind,” Jackson said. “I dislike them because they think they’re better than us.”
While some students from other schools seem to dislike UA due to its wealth, Hilliard Davidson freshman Matt Waters focuses on other aspects, such as sports.
“I don’t like Upper Arlington students very much because of the rivalry in sports between UA and Davidson,” Waters said.
Students from other schools mainly base their stereotypes of UA on wealth, but others derive from sports, academics and attitude.
CSG junior Helen Gianakopoulos, who lives in Bexely, bases her opinion on these qualitative aspects.
“When I think of UA, I think of how huge it is, the good reputation of sports, and how outgoing and nice the people are,” she said. “I think the school has a reputation of having a close-knit community despite how big it is.”
Voices from Within
UA students have defensive responses to these generalizations of their community. Junior Jacob Conrad said UA has many more middle-lower class residents than others may realize. However, he does understand the basis of other schools’ perceptions.
“In general, other central Ohio schools see UA as a center for pretentious, rich kids with plenty of toys to keep them occupied,” Conrad said.
He said other schools’ students should have a more objective view of the typical UA student.
“I would question their [other schools’ students] open-mindedness,” Conrad said. “Upper Arlington has a variety of students of different financial classes. The majority of kids are middle-upper class; this is no surprise. However, I’m willing to say there are as many lower-middle class students as there are [upper]-class students,” he said. “You would also find a wide assortment of incomes, but by percent, the numbers are more evened out.”
According to taxfoundation.org, a Web site that summarizes area tax reports, the middle class income would range from $35,500 to $122,000. UA’s median of $87,557 classifies the suburb as upper-middle class. In essence, these statistics support Conrad’s view of the community.
According to the city-data.com Web site, surrounding communities in the Franklin County area share a similar status. In Dublin, the median household income from 2009 was $110,764, surpassing UA’s median. This wealth continues in the house value; the 2009 median Dublin home valued at $331,245, greater than the median UA home value of $316,768.
Another wealthy central Ohio suburb that is in close proximity to UA is New Albany. Their financial statistics also surpass UA’s wealth, with the median home value at $500,410 and a median household income of $144,581.
Within UA, home size and value vary, causing stereotypes to arise based on the monetary worth of homes in certain neighborhoods. However, the community’s median home value is affected by mansion-sized outliers. The estimated UA median house value is $316,768, nearly triple the amount of the median Ohio house value of $134,600. While these numbers may lead people to assume all UA homes are large and expensive, UA residents have different views.
Sections within the community cause various stereotypes to arise according to house location. For instance, the difference between North and South UA is minuscule is to some; for others, a clear wealth separation exists within the community.
Realtor Mindy Farwick, who grew up in UA and is now raising a family and selling real estate in the community, explains the diversity of home values.
“Homes south of Lane [Avenue] are older, because that is where some of the first homes were built,” she said. “They are mostly two stories, have smaller lots, smaller basements and shared driveways. Some streets have very large homes and some do not.”
When comparing the two sections of UA, Farwick notes a difference in the home styles.
“Many of the homes in North Arlington are ranches, which was a very popular style in the 1950s and 1960s,” she said.
Sophomore Isaac Margard also notices subtle wealth differences between north and south Arlington.
“I’ve heard the stereotype that south UA has more money and larger houses than north UA,” Margard said. “I don’t see a huge difference until I’m really far south in UA.”
The community is generally stereotyped according to the north and south areas, but students are also aware of the middle neighborhoods.
The middle of UA, which is a vertically-oriented suburb, contains two sections. One area term known to some students, the “Golden Ghetto,” alludes to a lower income area in Upper Arlington. Ironically, while it may be the lower-class area of the community, in comparison to real “ghettos,” homes values there are roughly $35,400 higher than the state’s median home value of $134,600.
Although students mainly refer to this area as the “Golden Ghetto,” older generations know it as “River Ridge.” Farwick prefers the latter name.
“You hit a nerve with me calling the River Ridge the Golden Ghetto,” she said. “That type of student is what gives Upper Arlington a bad name. There is an area of Upper Arlington called the River Ridge. Homes in that area sell between $150,000-$190,000. It is a great area where the homes are smaller so therefore sell for less than other areas.”
Conrad shares his opinion about common student misconceptions of the Golden Ghetto/River Ridge area.
“[It’s] really just a neighborhood of single-story brick houses with high property values,” he said. “I imagine people joke about these ‘low end’ homes because they don’t even realize there are much cheaper, less quality apartments for rent less than a mile away, still in UA. It’s an easy scapegoat for jokes.”
Division from within UA as well as comparisons between UA and other surrounding schools show the variety of stereotypes portrayed.
The “rich-preppy” stereotype may continue to hold true to Upper Arlington, but students and statistics will prove the diversity other schools often forget.