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July 13, 2007

More From the Inequality Files

Robert Frank (the Wall Street Journal columnist, not the economist) profiles "YAWNS," the young, and wealthy, but normal, strain of rich folk. "They are men and women in their 30s and 40s who have become multimillionaires and billionaires during the wealth boom of the past decade. Yet rather than spending their money on yachts, boats and jets, yawns live modestly and spend most of their money on philanthropy." They sound peachy! But my lord:

Yawns spend substantial amounts of money and time trying to be normal. Natasha Pearl, founder of Aston Pearl, a New York-based concierge firm, says one of her yawn clients recently hired her to find a summer camp for his daughter that wouldn't be filled with other rich kids. She found him one in New England that was "very low-key." The client paid her $15,000 for the effort, even though the camp itself cost only $5,000 for the summer.

"It was worth it to him to send his child to a camp where the kids didn't arrive in private jets," Ms. Pearl says.

$15,000 to find a summer camp not packed with the spawn of the rich. And to think, every day, millions and millions of Americans locate summer camps that have resisted these hordes of monied tykes for free!

July 13, 2007 in Inequality | Permalink


As clueless as these people sound, there hearts seem to be in the right place at least. They are trying to expose their kids to the way other people live. That might make them somewhat sympathetic to the plight of ordinary people when they grow up. That's more than most people of their class do.

Posted by: soullite | Jul 13, 2007 9:14:50 AM

For $10,000, I would have told her to send her kids to the YMCA. I suspect she just wasted at least $5000.

(Why do the media love stupid rich people?)

Posted by: Whispers | Jul 13, 2007 10:13:54 AM

I would think lefties would love stupid rich people because a fool and his money are soon parted. Anybody willing to pay $15K for 5 minutes of googling is surely not contributing to the widening income disparity.

Posted by: mike | Jul 13, 2007 10:32:00 AM

What this does demonstrate, inadvertently, is just how solid class barriers are in the US.

A big part of what happens at these camps is that kids learn the skills & values they need for a middle-class existence. Middle class families find out about these camps for free, because this knowledge is part of their social network.

But it costs rich people $15k to buy the knowledge to tap into that social network. It, presumably, would cost a poor person an equal amount to find the same camp. But, even if they have the awareness, they don't have the capital, so they don't do it, so their kids end up in the same "low income" summer plans as eveyone else's--usually, watching TV indoors and avoiding gangs.

I think it's very revealing in terms of quantifying for us the full cost of to breaking into a middle class existence in America.

Posted by: anonymous | Jul 13, 2007 10:40:22 AM

This is funny. The guy does not want his kid exposed to spoiled rich kids, but exposes him to a lasy spoiled rich dad ....

Now that is funny....

Posted by: George | Jul 13, 2007 11:22:49 AM

A summer camp that charges $5000 per child is not filled with rich kids? Only if you have a peculiar definition of "rich."

Posted by: rea | Jul 13, 2007 11:48:21 AM

I never went to summer camp. Usually I spent my summers hanging out at my grandparents, until I hit middle school. Then it was time to learn responsibility, so I had to work on the farm every summer.

Posted by: Clark | Jul 13, 2007 11:48:33 AM

Well, why not just let your kid hang out with fellow rich kids for the summer? After all, he or she gets all the grounding they need attending the local public school...

What's that?

Posted by: tps12 | Jul 13, 2007 1:00:57 PM

Oh, for heaven's sake. It's awfully sweet of them to want to give their kid a broad variety of options, but maybe they could consider signing their kids up for the Boy Scouts or the JCC or some such. Maybe there's a Habitat for Humanity summer program for high school kids? Point is, I agree with the various people above who say they paid a smidgen to much for a consultant.

Posted by: SDM | Jul 13, 2007 1:32:22 PM

A summer camp that charges $5000 per child is not filled with rich kids? Only if you have a peculiar definition of "rich."

I was about to say, we may be redefining inequality upward based on these examples.

Posted by: Xanthippas | Jul 13, 2007 2:17:21 PM

Dude lives in NYC. Cost of living there is way higher than in most parts of the country, which in turn means that the income boundaries of the classes all get turned up higher, too.

If the $5,000 summer camp is mostly populated by other NYC or Boston or other urban enclave kids, then it's entirely reasonable for them to be upper middle class with a smattering of lower upper class and middle middle class thrown in.

(I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are advertisements on the busses right now for jobs in the SF Police Department, saying that starting salary is a smidge over $66k per year. This doesn't mean that police officers are all rich over here, it just means that if you live in Nebraska, your intuitive sense for what's rich in a high cost-of-living urban area is wrong.)

Posted by: Michael B Sullivan | Jul 13, 2007 2:41:08 PM

This website suggests that a garage near 8th ave and 17th street charges between $400 and $500 a month. If you're willing to park way west though, you might save quite a bit dollars.

Regardless, if you buy a parking spot, you can sell it later, it'll probably go up in value, and there may be a tax write off from the mortgage. It seems to me that if you can afford the down payment, a $200,000 parking spot purchase may well be worth it.

Posted by: EERac | Jul 13, 2007 3:46:50 PM

I just googled, out of curiosity, the summer camp I used to attend, which charges just under $1000 every two weeks. If you spent the entire summer there it would come to about $5000, but most people stay about a month (or did, back in the day), and they have financial aid available--in fact, IIRC, they had a specific arrangement with a set of NYC public schools to lower the price for kids who wanted to attend during a certain session. Definitely not filled with rich kids, that camp. So if the parents wanted to send them to this camp, for the entire summer, that would more or less work out. Also, word to the notes about NYC being obscenely expensive.

Posted by: Isabel | Jul 14, 2007 2:03:20 PM

But it costs rich people $15k to buy the knowledge to tap into that social network. It, presumably, would cost a poor person an equal amount to find the same camp.

I don't think it is really necessary to spend $15K to find a run of the mill (not even a $5000 one) camp for anybody. These people just think the only way to be sure you're getting the best is to pay way too much for it.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano | Jul 14, 2007 10:14:32 PM

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