Rural Incomes Fall 2008 to 2009

The average per capita income in rural counties in 2009 was 79% of the national average, up slightly from 2000.

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The average income of Americans has dropped in exurban, urban and rural counties in the last few years. But the changes vary by region, especially in rural America.

The map above shows changes in average per capita income in rural counties from 2008 to 2009. This includes all income — wages, salaries, dividends, rents, interest, social security benefits and employer-provided health insurance. (All figures in this story are in 2009 dollars.)

The counties in blue had increases in average per capita incomes. Those in yellow had decreases in average incomes. (Click on the map to see a larger version.)

Counties with falling incomes are home to 57% of those living in rural America.

The average income in rural America was $31,404 per person in 2009, approximately $200 below the 2008 figure — a result of the recession that began in December 2007.

Urban county per capita income has been falling for the past two years, from $43,520 per person in 2007 to $42,038 in 2009. 

Exurban incomes were in between urban and rural averages, at $33,584. Incomes in these fast-growing counties on the edge of metro areas were also lower in 2009 than in 2007.

Incomes in rural counties were 79% of the national average in 2009. That is a better ratio than when the decade began, when rural per capita income was only 74% of the national average.

Exurban per capita income averaged 85% of the national average in 2009.

The chart below shows the average per capita income in rural, urban and exurban counties from 2000 to 2009. The figures are in constant 2009 dollars. The data comes from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Daily Yonder/BEA

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that “swings in farm income accounted for much of the change in personal income from 2008 to 2009” in many of the rural counties in the Plains. Appalachian counties, while still largely poorer communities, had the largest increases in per capita income.

The largest gains in per capita income, however, could be found in the energy producing counties of North Dakota. The top eight rural counties in income gain from 2008 to ’09 were all in the gas and oil boom areas of the state.




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