Census: Family income drops 2.9%

Workers rally for more jobsIf your family's income has been decreasing, it appears you are far from alone. The Census Bureau said today that the median income for American families dropped 2.9% in 2009, down to $50,221 from $51,726.

It's the second year in a row that a drop has been reported, with income down 4% since 2007.
The bureau said family income decreased in 34 states, rose strongly in only one state -- North Dakota -- and pretty much stayed close to the same in others.
The Bureau also put some depressing new official statistics behind reports of drops in housing prices. Median property values for owner-occupied homes dropped 5.8% in 2009 when adjusted for inflation.

The new information came as the Bureau released numbers from its American Community Survey, which is based on information gathered in a sampling of American households.

The Census Bureau said median family incomes ranged from a high of $69,272 in Maryland to a low of $36,646 in Mississippi, with 29 states higher and 20 states lower than the national number and one state, Wisconsin, at the national median.

Michigan families, hard hit by the woes of the auto industry, experienced the biggest loss in income, with a 6.2% drop. Florida families' income dropped 5.7% and North Carolina families' income dropped 5.6%.

Among other trends the Census Bureau reported:

Rental costs: Silicon Valley, with a $1,414 average for rentals, had the highest gross rental rate of any of the 50 most populous areas, followed by Washington, D.C., and San Francisco (both with $1,303); then San Diego ($1,224), then Los Angeles ($1,197) and then New York ($1,125) and Boston ($1,123). The Census Bureau includes parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania in computing New York's numbers.

The cheapest big cities to rent in were Pittsburgh ($643), and Buffalo, Louisville, Cincinnati, Oklahoma City and Cleveland, all with rents between $652 and $706. St. Louis had a median gross rent of $732.

The Census bureau also said a dozen cities had double-digit rental vacancy rates, listing them as Jacksonville, Atlanta, Memphis, Phoenix, Tampa, Orlando, Houston, Las Vegas, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Detroit.

Home Values: To the surprise of probably no one, median property values decreased in 2009 to $185,200 for owner-occupied houses. The Census Bureau put the median decrease at 5.8% when adjusted for inflation, but said values went down as far as 34.% in Merced, Calif., and up as much as 19.7% in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Again, Silicon Valley with a median property value of $683,300 led the list of the most expensive cities, followed by San Francisco ($591,600); Los Angeles ($463,600), San Diego ($417,700) and Sacramento ($298,000).

Earnings: Women earned 78.2% of what men did in 2009, $35,549 compared to $45,485. Still that was up slightly from 2008, when women earned 77.7% of what men made. Women earned less than men in every state, but did make more than men in Puerto Rico.

The Census Bureau said that the percentage of people with incomes below the poverty level rose to 14.3% of the U.S. population, up form 13.0% in 2008. That is an increase of 3.5 million people.

"We are looking at the impacts on different parts of the country," said Alan Berube, a senior fellow for the Brookings Institution. "You are much better off being in Austin and Washington, D.C>, than in Phoenix and Detroit. We are looking at whether its having an impact on where immigrants are locating and whether people are retrenching from expanding sunbelt locations to more traditional big cities.
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