Skip to content

Differences in Income Growth Across U.S. Counties

Income and Poverty

Differences in Income Growth Across U.S. Counties

Income and Poverty

Poverty Rates Higher, Median Household Income Lower in Rural Counties Than in Urban Areas

Component ID: #ti2067650734

Median household income and poverty rates continue to vary across the nation’s 3,142 counties. In general, median household income is higher in urban counties than in rural areas. Likewise, poverty rates tend to be lower in urban areas than in rural areas.

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released 2013-2017 five-year estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS), which provides statistics for every county in the nation. 

Component ID: #ti1393314543

Across all counties, those that were mostly urban were often among those with the highest median household income (Loudoun County, Va.; Fairfax County, Va.; Howard County, Md.; Falls Church City, Va.; and Arlington County, Va.).

Component ID: #ti775444961

Figure 1

Component ID: #ti1154854357

The map in Figure 2 shows median household income over the most recent five-year period for all counties. Figure 3 shows the poverty rates for all counties over the same period. For smaller counties, the ACS five-year estimates often serve as the only source of data on the economic well-being of these communities.

Figure 2

Figure 3

Component ID: #ti1281594114

Mostly Urban Counties

Almost 87 percent of the total U.S. population lived in 1,253 mostly urban counties, counties where at least half the population lived in urban areas.

Median income in those counties was $59,970 for the most recent five-year period. The poverty rate was 14.3 percent.

For individual counties, median income ranged from $20,795 to $129,588 and poverty rates ranged from 2.9 percent to 48.2 percent. Loudoun County, Va., had the highest median household income among urban counties during the 2013-2017 period while East Carroll Parish, La., and Brooks County, Texas, had among the highest poverty rates for urban counties.

Across all counties, those that were mostly urban were often among those with the highest median household income (Loudoun County, Va.; Fairfax County, Va.; Howard County, Md.; Falls Church City, Va.; and Arlington County, Va.).

Of the mostly urban counties, Falls Church City, Va.; Lincoln County, S.D.; Douglas County, Colo.; and Loudoun County, Va., had among the lowest poverty rates. 

Figure 4

Figure 5

Component ID: #ti968314708

Mostly Rural Counties

About 11.5 percent of the U.S. population lived in 1,185 mostly rural counties, counties with 50 to 99.9 percent of their population living in rural areas.

Median household income in these mostly rural counties was $47,020 over the five-year period. The poverty rate in these counties over the same period was 16.3 percent. Median household income ranged from $20,330 to $94,775 while poverty rates ranged from 2.4 percent to 51.9 percent.

Fauquier County, Va., had the highest median household income among mostly rural counties during the 2013-2017 period. Holmes County, Miss., and Clinch County, Ga., had among the lowest median household income.

Morgan County, Utah, had the lowest poverty rate (2.4 percent) among these mostly rural counties while Oglala Lakota County, S.D.; Holmes County, Miss.; and Ziebach County, S.D., had among the highest poverty rates.

Figure 6

Figure 7

Component ID: #ti1408082207

Completely Rural Counties

Only 1.6 percent of the U.S. population lived in the 704 counties that are completely rural, with 100 percent of the population living in a rural environment.

Median income in those counties was $44,020 over the past five years. The poverty rate was 17.2 percent. Median income ranged from $19,264 to $92,849. Poverty rates ranged from 2.6 percent to 52.0 percent.

Of these completely rural counties, Elbert County, Colo., and Billings County, N.D., were among the completely rural counties with the highest median household incomes while McCreary County, Ky., and Greene County, Ala., were among the lowest.

Wheeler County, Neb.; Borden County, Texas; and Oliver County, N.D., were among those with the lowest poverty rates while Todd County and Corson County, both in South Dakota, and Jefferson County, Miss., had among the highest poverty rates over the 2013-2017 period.

Figure 8

Figure 9

Component ID: #ti1768407360

Changes Over Time: 2008-2012 to 2013-2017

This new five-year ACS estimates allows for a comparison between the 2008-2012 period that included 18 months of the most recent recession and the 2013-2017 period of ongoing economic growth.

Nationally, median household income increased 1.9 percent, from $56,587 to $57,652 in inflation-adjusted dollars between the two five-year periods. The percentage of people in poverty decreased from 14.9 percent to 14.6 percent.

These national trends were mirrored in all three geographic county groups:

  • In mostly urban counties, median income increased 2.3 percent while poverty declined from 14.6 percent to 14.3 percent.
  • In mostly rural counties, median household income increased 1.4 percent while the poverty rate declined from 16.6 percent to 16.3 percent.
  • For completely rural counties, median income rose 2.4 percent while the poverty rates declined from 17.7 percent to 17.2 percent.

For more information on these classifications, see the PDF “Defining Rural at the U.S. Census Bureau”.

Component ID: #ti1073712218


Gloria Guzman, Kirby G. Posey, Alemayehu Bishaw and Craig Benson are survey statisticians in the Census Bureau's Income Statistics Branch and Poverty Statistics Branch.


Component ID: #ti1859454936

 

About

America Counts tells the stories behind the numbers in a new inviting way. We feature stories on various topics such as families, housing, employment, business, education, the economy, emergency preparedness, and population. Contact our Public Information Office for media inquiries or interviews.

 

All of Our Content

The entire list of stories is available to you.

Use the hashtag #AmericaCounts to share this story on social media.

 

This story was posted in: Income and Poverty


Tags: Income and Poverty
X
  Is this page helpful?
Thumbs Up Image Yes    Thumbs Down Image No
X
No, thanks
255 characters remaining
X
Thank you for your feedback.
Comments or suggestions?