Several people have commented that Osama bin Laden’s choice of home was akin to that of the millionaire next door types who blend in well with their neighbors. Others said that living in a million dollar compound in a third world country was anything but analogous to the low profile existence of the American millionaires whom I study. It seems that the consensus among professional journalists is that “the Pakistanis must have known . . . how else could someone exist for years in an ostentatious residence surrounded by poverty?”
In the United States, 28.3% of the millionaires [1.1M] live in homes that have a market value of under $300,000. In total there are nearly 55 million homes in this market value category. Millionaires do indeed blend well with their neighbors who have significantly less wealth than they do. Some of my colleagues refer to neighborhoods of this variety as “Middle Class-Dull Normal.”
But what about Pakistan? Unlike in America, the middle class there is a small minority. The really big segment is the poor, lower class. But throughout Pakistan, rich and powerful people live in compounds such as the infamous one in the news. It’s not a stretch to imagine that bin Laden’s compound could have been perceived as merely just one more example of where rich Paistanis live. In fact, lately it seems that a disproportionately large share of wealthy immigrants from third world countries have quickly moved into million dollar plus compounds with high fences and tall walls once here in the U.S. [see Stop Acting Rich, Table 2.5- Top 20 Ancestry Groups Who Own/Occupy Homes Valued at $1 Million or More: Total Number versus Concentration]. Even when settled in the U.S. their need for protection continues. And most of them are certainly not of the millionaire next door variety.