Where Americans Are Becoming Wealthier, Poorer

See how incomes have changed since the start of the recession for each county in America.
by | April 10, 2014 AT 8:59 AM

Many Americans saw their pocketbooks take a hit during the Great Recession.

But in select enclaves throughout the country, incomes continued to grow, often at exceptionally high rates. Areas of the Great Plains particularly enjoyed strong growth, as some parts of North Dakota and Texas recorded per capita personal income gains of more than 50 percent between 2007 and 2012.

In rural Williams County, North Dakota, real per capita personal income soared a staggering 167 percent over the five-year period, more than any other county in the country.

Williams County, like many that experienced sharp increases in wealth, benefited from an oil boom. Counties primarily driven by agriculture also weathered the recession far better than those in more urban areas with economies tied to manufacturing and other sectors still reeling from sizable job losses.

By and large, Americans recording the largest income growth in recent years tended to reside in rural counties outside of major metro areas. This is one of several issues explored in Governing’s new series on America’s Rural/Urban divide.

For an illustration of just how uneven growth has been, see the following map showing changes in counties’ real per capita personal income growth between the start of the recession in 2007 and 2012. Dark green counties recorded the largest percentage increases over the five-year period. (Click to open interactive map in new window)

At first glance, it might appear that personal incomes actually grew for most Americans. This isn’t the case, though, as high-population metro areas experienced little change or saw incomes dip. Parts of densely-populated California and south Florida, for example, suffered some of the nation’s steepest declines and have yet to fully recover.

Total U.S. per capita personal income declined slightly between 2007 and 2012 – about $297 – when adjusted for inflation. By last year, the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicates the nation had returned to roughly pre-recession levels.

Counties Recording Largest Personal Income Growth 

The following table lists changes in inflation-adjusted per capita personal income between 2007 and 2012. Select a state to filter data or click a column header to sort.