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Number of poorer counties rose over last five years, even as U.S. aggregate income increased

THURSDAY, JUN 06, 2024

A case can be made that the United States has become wealthier in the last five years; gross domestic product has climbed almost 31 percent, and the total, inflation-adjusted income earned by households has risen about $2 trillion. Inequality has fallen more than 4 percent. But a case can also be made that the United States has become poorer over the last five years. The typical U.S. household reported an income of $74,580 in 2022, almost $9,000 less than the inflation-adjusted figure for 2017.
One fact, however, is beyond dispute: Almost 1 in 3 U.S. counties had less aggregate household income in 2022 than they reported in 2017. In other words, even if the U.S. has not become a poorer nation, it has become a nation with more poor places.



According to the 2018-22 American Community Survey, 963 of the nation’s 3,132 counties reported inflation-adjusted losses in aggregate household income over the five-year period. The counties where aggregate income dropped the most between 2017 and 2022 included Anchorage Municipality, Alaska (-$507.7 million); San Juan County, N.M. (-$444.9 million); Caddo Parish, La. (-$352.2 million); Trumbull County, Ohio (-$325.2 million); and Columbus County, N.C. (-$315.9 million).
The losses in aggregate household income weren’t linear. Anchorage, for example, posted a $362.6 million gain between 2012 and 2017; over the decade, its aggregate household income only dropped $145.2 million. Meanwhile, Caddo Parish, which includes Shreveport, suffered a $340.1 million loss between 2012 and 2017, pushing its decade-long loss to $592.2 million, the worst figure in the nation.
The largest gainers of the decade included the nation’s most populous counties, with aggregate incomes for the top five increasing far more rapidly between 2017 and 2022 than during the previous five-year period. The aggregate income in Los Angeles County grew $16.6 billion between 2012 and 2017 before rising another $41.5 billion between 2017 and 2022. Its $58.2 billion increase in aggregate household income was the largest county increase over the decade.
Los Angeles was trailed by King County, Wash. (+$18.2 billion, +$30.1 billion); Maricopa County, Ariz. (+$12 billion, +$34.1 billion); Santa Clara County, Calif. (+$16.2 billion, +$26.7 billion); and Cook County, Ill. (+$9.8 billion, +$27 billion).
Counties that posted mixed results in aggregate household income over the decade did so largely on the strength of increases between 2012 and 2017. Nueces County, Texas, reported a $956 million gain over the decade.
But the south Texas County, which includes Corpus Christi, reported a $262.1 million loss between 2017 and 2022, after reporting a $1.2 billion gain between 2012 and 2017. Williams County, N.D., which enjoyed a shale oil boom that boosted aggregate income by $707.4 million between 2012 and 2017, lost $43.6 million between 2017 and 2022. Still, its $663.8 million gain over the decade ranked it No.2 in overall gains, just behind Nueces County.
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