While not all statistics are flattering, according to a recent NerdWallet survey, Manhattan Beach has stats that can be a source of pride for the city.

After crunching the numbers to determine the Best Burbs of Los Angeles the consumer advocacy group NerdWallet ranked Manhattan Beach No. 1 for having the most highly educated residents, second in the category of highest-earners and second for healthcare coverage. The survey, which used recent U.S. Census data, included seven categories from which L.A. suburbs were diverse, the highest-earning, where women make more money than men, are the fastest-growing, most educated, have the smallest gender pay gap and highest healthcare coverage.

Senior analyst with the San Francisco-based group, Divya Raghavan, said, “It is significant that Manhattan Beach ranked highly in three of the seven categories. The three categories that Manhattan ranked in all correlate. A high percentage of the population having healthcare coverage relates to the ranking of being a high-earning community, and people who earn high wages tend to be highly educated and value education. It makes sense that Manhattan has a top-ranking public school system in relation to property values because instead of spending sometimes $45,000 to send their children to private schools they instead invest in their homes and enjoy a quality educational system.”

According to the survey, Manhattan Beach boasts a 97 percent graduation rate with 73.2 percent of residents having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. The study also revealed that it had more $1 million home sales in 2013 than any other city in California. Given this combination Jack Gillespie, a broker and owner of South Bay Brokers, said the statistics all add up.

“It all correlates and it feds upon itself,” Gillespie said. “Forbes magazine recently ranked Mira Costa High School as one of the best in the country and it always ranks in the top two or three in the state.”

He began selling residential property in Manhattan Beach in 1973, so he has witnessed its evolution from being a former ‘sleepy beach town’ to an eclectic urban beach city.

Having access to areas of L.A. where high-paying jobs are located via the 405 and 105 freeways has helped build both the affluence and percentage of highly educated people over the past four decades.

“Within 30 minutes people can commute to downtown L.A., Century City, Commerce City, Long Beach and be at LAX airport in 10 minutes, which is a draw for people who do a lot of international business and for those who are otherwise frequent travelers,” he said.

Vince Altamura of the Altamura Group, echoes Gillespie’s view.

“People move from other affluent areas of L.A. for the school system. That really is a solid selling point. I preach it. I’m a product of the school system here. I’m a Mira Costa grad, I went to USC and a lot of my friends went to Ivy League schools,” the 25-year-old Realtor said. “The sad thing is, with the property values so high, once they graduate it’s hard for them to come back right away and buy homes.”

Gillespie agrees and said the influx of wealthy people from L.A.’s Westside communities such as Brentwood, Westwood, Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley is directly linked to having a top-performing public school system.

“In those communities, they often send their kids to private schools and pay $45,000 for sending their kids to private schools and have to drive them 30 minutes to get there. Whereas here, in Manhattan Beach, ‘little Johnny’ goes to school with his friend down the street ‘little Jimmy.’ People here spend more on their homes and are comfortable that their children are getting a high-quality education,” he said.

Gillespie said this increases the small-town feeling in Manhattan Beach and creates a genuine sense of community.

“People are willing to pay a premium for a higher-quality of life. The areas like Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica are both affluent, are on the coast and beautiful, but a lot of them send their kids to private schools and they don’t know their neighbors, whereas here in Manhattan we are all neighbors. You can walk down The Strand and see people you know, run into your friends, you know their dogs’ names and where to go for Taco Tuesday and where to go for the friendliest cup of coffee. People in other L.A. beach communities don’t have that strong sense of being a small town feeling community like we do here,” he said. “As someone who sells homes, I can take pride in my work, I’m not just selling, I’m selling this city, I’m selling a higher quality of life.”

The biggest downside to all of the positive aspects is when people who want to buy a home here realize that they can’t afford it.

“I feel the disappointment. You can see it in their eyes, and that’s really the hardest part for me,” he said.

Along with the aspects that make up Manhattan Beach’s high quality of life also comes higher levels of stress and worry, according to Dr. Lisa Santora, who is the Chief Medical Officer with the Beach Cities Health District. She believes the reported challenges to well-being could be the flip-side to NerdWallet’s positive news.

In the Gallup/Healthways Well Being Index survey conducted by the Beach Cities Health District, the findings were reflective of the NerdWallet survey, but indicated Manhattan Beach residents have high levels of anger, stress and anxiety, Santora said.

The WBI data revealed that levels of stress and worry reported by Manhattan residents were among the worst of the 190 cities that were surveyed.

She wasn’t surprised to learn about NerdWallet ranking Manhattan Beach as having the second highest percentage of residents with healthcare coverage, however there is room for improvement in the areas of emotional and psychological well-being of the residents.

“Our findings indicated that 90 percent of residents throughout the beach cities have access to healthcare coverage,” she said. “There are remaining strides that need to be made to address these other aspects relating to high levels of stress. While residents are financially thriving and highly educated, over all, well-being includes mental and emotional health, social and work relationships as well,” she said.

The WBI survey is a part of the Blue Zones Project, a public health initiative that has been operated under contract with the company Healthways.”

The Blue Zones concept, originally referred to as Vitality City when the project was first launched in the beach cities, grew out of a book by Dan Buettner that identified the positive habits of people living in the world’s “blue zones,” those areas that have the higher percentages of people living longer, healthier and happier lives.

For more information about the Blue Zones Project, contact BCHD at bluezonesproject@bchd.org or (310) 374-3426. To view the NerdWallet survey of L.A.’s Best Burbs, visit nerdwallet.com.

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