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The Sunshine Economy

Affluence & Affordability: See South Florida's Wealthiest

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Just over two dozen people in South Florida hold more than $100 billion in wealth. These 25 individuals make up South Florida's Wealthiest, a list from the Miami Herald, compiled by Global Governance Advisors, an executive pay consulting group. You can see the list below, or here.

There's a voyeuristic quality of these kinds of "richest" lists.

Hedge fund manager and activist shareholder Carl Icahn tops this list. He lives here part time, as do many of those on top of the list. Their wealth is imported into South Florida.

But there are familiar names of people who created and grew their fortunes here: Carnival Cruise line's chairman (and Miami Heat owner) MickyArison, pharmaceutical innvoator Dr. Phillip Frost, Wayne Huizenga, Jorge Perez and Norman Braman. They are familiar names to most South Floridians either because of their sports ownerships, public philanthropy or consumer-facing businesses.

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Credit Miami Herald & GGC
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The 2014 South Florida Wealthiest list.

The list is a snapshot of wealth in South Florida. Luis Navas, managing partner of Global Governance Advisors says the list indicates how the regional economy attracts and grows a diverse source of wealth.

"If you look at California, which also has a high density of wealth, more than half of that comes from one industry: technology. Where I think people historically thought of Florida as very dependent on tourism, I think the fact that it is very well diversified in terms of where that wealth is coming from is a huge positive."

South Florida also has an affordability challenge. The Miami Foundation's 2014 Our Miami survey finds while the cost of living here is below that of other major metropolitan areas, the cost burden of living in South Florida is high. While the cost of living takes into account the cost of many items, the cost burden looks at housing and transportation. Those two costs raise the cost burden of living and working in South Florida to above that of living and working in New York, Chicago and even San Francisco.

These gauges show the percent of income residents pay in these areas for housing and transportation, according to this group

The Miami Foundation President and CEO Javier Soto says, "As Miami evolves the affordability issue is becoming more and more obvious as an obstacle to overcome if we are going to continue on an upwards trajectory as a community."

WLRN's Sunshine Economy looked at the biggest metropolitan areas with at least one million people working and the median hourly wage paid in those areas.  The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is revealing.  In San Francisco, half the workforce makes almost $25 an hour. In Miami, it's less than $15 an hour. Hit the down arrow on the chart below to see how Miami compares. And the only area with at least one million workers with a median hourly wage below Miami? Orlando.

Beyond economics, what's the impact of the gap between those on the South Florida's Wealthiest list and those making the median hourly wage? Soto, the president and CEO at The Miami Foundation says, "Increasingly not only in Miami but nationally people feel like the system is designed to benefit others who are very well off. When you have that type of view of the world I think you're less likely to be hopeful that you can bridge that gap. And therefore less likely to plug into the system and be a participant in it."

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In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.