Rural Family Incomes Drop 2007-’10

With the recession, rural incomes have declined in seven out of ten counties. And incomes remain highest in metropolitan areas.

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Nearly 7 out of 10 rural counties saw their median family incomes drop from 2007 to 2010, according to new figures from the U.S. Census.

Median income is point where half the families in the county make more than that amount and half make less. The national median family income in 2010 was $50,046. Only 120 rural counties (out of 2,036 total rural counties) had median family incomes higher than the national median.

The map above shows the change in median family (or household) income from ’07 to 2010. We picked 2007 as the starting point since that was before the recession began. (The official beginning of the recession was December 2007.)

Pink counties had median incomes that were falling. Brick red counties had the largest losses — more than $3,000. (We used constant 2010 dollars throughout this study.)

Green counties had the largest gains. Look at the large number of green counties through the Great Plains, which have benefited from oil and gas exploration and high prices for crops. 

Click on the map to see a larger version. The fifty counties with the largest gains and losses in median income can be seen on the next page.

There are a number of regions where incomes have fallen by large amounts. Pockets in the West have had falling family incomes, as have New England, the Upper Midwest and the Southeast.

Income change is different from income, of course. The map below shows the difference in median incomes across all 2,036 rural counties.


The national median family income is $50,046 a year. There are only 161 rural counties with medians at or above that number. They are in dark blue in the map above. Note that some areas with large drops in income (New England in particular) are also counties with high median incomes.

And Appalachian Kentucky has low income, but not much drop in income from ’07 to ’10.

To see a larger version of the map, click on it.

Most high-income counties were in metropolitan areas. The Census reports that metro areas contained 68 percent of those counties in the top quarter in terms of family income. Nearly 96 percent of the people living in counties in the top quarter in terms of family income lived in cities.

Buffalo County, South Dakota, had the lowest median family income in rural America, at $20,577 a year. It was followed by counties in Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama and some counties on the Texas/Mexico border.

Here are the 50 rural counties with the largest dollar increases in median family income from 2007 to 2010. (This was figured using constant 2010 dollars.)


And here are the 50 rural counties that had the largest dollar decreases in median family income from before the recession began to 2010.





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