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Unlike Lake Wobegon, most of America is below average, at least when it comes to personal income.
The map above shows if counties had average personal income above or below the 2014 national average, which was just a few dollars more than $46,000. Eight out of 10 counties in the U.S. had average incomes that fell below the national average.
In rural America, just 17.5 percent of counties had above-average incomes in 2014. Those counties are shaded green. Rural counties that have below average incomes are shaded red. As you can see in the map, rural counties with above average incomes are concentrated in the Great Plains.
Urban counties with above average incomes are colored blue; 21.7 percent of metropolitan counties had above average incomes. Metro counties with below average income are orange.
Metro counties with above-average incomes can be found in the nation’s largest and fastest-growing cities. Medium and small cities fall below average.
The Bureau of Economic Affairs, a federal agency, provided the data. BEA counts everything in its definition of income: wages, rents, royalties from oil and gas production, transfer payments from Social Security or welfare, interest, capital gains.
Click on the map and it will go “live.” Click on any county and income data will pop up.
The average income among all urban residents in 2014 was $47,566, according to the BEA. Among those who live in “micropolitan” counties (counties with towns between 10,000 and 50,000 people), the average in 2014 was $37,270.
For those who live in rural counties (those with no town larger than 10,000), the average was $36,151, $11,415 less than the average income among urban residents. For readers who enjoy percentages, individual rural income in 2014 was 76 percent of urban income.
As a result, urban counties had 85.5 percent of the nation’s population in 2014, but 88.4 percent of the country’s total income.
From 2012 to 2014, rural and micropolitan county income grew slightly faster than urban income. Rural income grew 5.9 percent in that period; micropolitan income grew 4.9 percent; urban county income grew 3.8 percent.
There were enormous differences in income from place to place. In New York County, in the heart of New York City, average income topped $148,000 in 2014, the highest among urban counties. Long County, Georgia, in the Hinesville metro area, had the lowest metro income at $22,221 in 2014.
The highest average income in all U.S. counties was in rural America. Teton County, Wyoming, had an average income in 2014 of $194,485.
The lowest rural income was in Wheeler County, Georgia, where the average person took in $15,787 in 2014. Wheeler County is in south central Georgia, not that far from Hinesville.
The lowest incomes are scattered around the Southeast. Seven of the 10 lowest average incomes could be found in Florida or Georgia.
Some of the most volatile income was located in the shale oil regions of the Great Plains. Fourteen of the 20 counties with the largest decrease in income between 2012 and 2014 were in North Dakota, where an oil and gas boom has cooled.
Seven of the eight counties with the largest percentage increase in income were in Nebraska (Thomas, Grant, Loup, Blaine, Wheeler, McPherson and Arthur).
Check out the map and if you can explain local changes in average income, please add a comment below using Disqus (a free service that manages our comments) or on the Daily Yonder Facebook page.