A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Daily Yonder: Rural, exurban counties lag
in income; Kentucky’s Owsley among lowest

By Bill Bishop
Special to KyForward

Only 376 rural or exurban counties had median family incomes that were equal to or greater than the national median of $50,502 in 2011, according to the U.S. Census.

Remember, “median” means the middle. Half the households in the U.S. had income greater than $50,502 in 2011 and half made less. The map below shows the median household income in each county — that is the middle point of all incomes in the county.

Exurban counties are in metro areas, but about half their residents live in rural settings.

The dark blue counties are the richest rural counties in terms of household income. The western ski areas have high incomes. So does the oil and gas region of western North Dakota and the Hill Country counties of Texas.

Only 15 percent of rural and exurban counties have median household incomes above the national number.

The counties in any shade of blue have incomes above the median household income of all counties of $41,974. (Half of all counties had median family incomes above $41,974 in 2011 and half were below.)

The counties in red are median household incomes below $41,974. Again, there are familiar patterns. The lowest income counties are in Appalachian, the Black Belt of the South, Indian lands and the Texas/Mexico border.

Most of the rural and exurban counties with the highest incomes are exurban or rural counties outside of urban areas.

Wilcox County, Ala., had the lowest median family income, at 20,990. Wilcox was followed by Buffalo County, S.D., Owsley County, Ky., and Noxubee County, Miss.. These three counties had median family incomes under $22,000 in 2011.

(Graphic from Daily Yonder)


This story was republished with permission from the Daily Yonder.

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