Monday, May 12, 2008

Rural areas fall farther behind metros in income; most counties where income declined are rural

Personal income in rural America, as a percent of metro personal income, fell for the third straight year from 2005 to 2006, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. It reports that of the 227 counties that suffered declines in personal income, 194 were rural. An overwhelming majority of counties with declining income from 2005-2006 are classified as rural.

Bill Bishop and Kathleen Miller write in the Daily Yonder, "In the BEA's calculation, personal income is a comprehensive measure of the income of all persons from all sources. It includes wages, salaries, employer-provided health insurance, dividends and interest income, social security benefits, and other types of income, including farm subsidy or disaster payments. Also, in this study, 'rural' counties are defined as those that are 'non metro' counties according to the U.S. Census." That is a somewhat blunt instrument, because there are many rural areas in metro areas; in fact, about half of the rural U.S. population lives in metro areas.

National average personal income increased 6.7 percent from 2005 to 2006, but most rural counties were below national averages for absolute personal income, and increases in it, from '05 to '06. Income increases equal to or higher than the national average were reported in only 18 percent of rural counties (362 out of 2,029). Only 3.4 percent of rural counties (68 out of 2,029) generated average incomes greater than the national average, many of which are resort communities. For the Yonder's report, click here.

Is your county among the well-off or the worse-off? Here are the 50 rural counties with the largest percentage declines in income between 2005 and 2006; the 50 rural counties with the largest percentage increases in income; the 50 rural counties with the lowest personal incomes in 2006; and the 50 rural counties with the highest personal incomes in 2006.

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