Here is a piece on the changes in income in rural communities, also some other economic statistics for rural communities from the Daily Yonder. May be relevant to the current interest in jobs in rural communities in Oregon and elsewhere.
Note 1: the text says “click on the map”; that only works on the maps on the original website.
Note 2: I don’t know if these are accurate; if you think they aren’t you can comment on the site and here, they previously corrected an error.
U.S. Census/Daily Yonder This map shows the change in median family income in rural counties between 2007 and 2010.
Nearly 7 out of 10 rural counties saw their median family incomes drop from 2007 to 2010, according to new figures from the U.S. Census.
Median income is point where half the families in the county make more than that amount and half make less. The national median family income in 2010 was $50,046. Only 120 rural counties (out of 2,036 total rural counties) had median family incomes higher than the national median.
The map above shows the change in median family (or household) income from ’07 to 2010. We picked 2007 as the starting point since that was before the recession began. (The official beginning of the recession was December 2007.)
Pink counties had median incomes that were falling. Brick red counties had the largest losses — more than $3,000. (We used constant 2010 dollars throughout this study.)
Green counties had the largest gains. Look at the large number of green counties through the Great Plains, which have benefited from oil and gas exploration and high prices for crops.
Click on the map to see a larger version. The fifty counties with the largest gains and losses in median income can be seen on the next page.
There are a number of regions where incomes have fallen by large amounts. Pockets in the West have had falling family incomes, as have New England, the Upper Midwest and the Southeast.
Income change is different from income, of course. The map below shows the difference in median incomes across all 2,036 rural counties.
The national median family income is $50,046 a year. There are only 161 rural counties with medians at or above that number. They are in dark blue in the map above. Note that some areas with large drops in income (New England in particular) are also counties with high median incomes.
And Appalachian Kentucky has low income, but not much drop in income from ’07 to ’10.
To see a larger version of the map, click on it.
Most high-income counties were in metropolitan areas. The Census reports that metro areas contained 68 percent of those counties in the top quarter in terms of family income. Nearly 96 percent of the people living in counties in the top quarter in terms of family income lived in cities.
Buffalo County, South Dakota, had the lowest median family income in rural America, at $20,577 a year. It was followed by counties in Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama and some counties on the Texas/Mexico border.
Here is the link.
Congress has to get cracking; time is running out on timber counties
Three Oregon congressmen recently described on these pages the outlines of a plan aimed at breaking the impasse on federal forests and preserving basic county services across timber country. It looks promising, and we’re eager to see more.
Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, and Republican Greg Walden, say they have worked through their differences and are preparing a bipartisan plan that would create thousands of new jobs by expediting harvest of previously logged forests, protect old-growth and critical wildlife areas and provide steady funding for rural schools, roads and law enforcement.
Of course, lawmakers have raised hopes for this sort of grand forest legislation before, only to have their best-laid plans go nowhere in the face of environmental opposition and congressional inattention. But now there’s an unmistakable fiscal crisis looming across timber country, where federal payments to counties have expired and some local governments could plunge into insolvency in the coming year.
The prospect of failing local governments and families fleeing declining rural communities ought to focus minds both in Oregon and in Congress. The issues surrounding federal forests and rural counties simply can’t be pushed off any longer.
The three Oregon congressmen seem to be headed down the right path. They describe a plan that would allow a steady and sustainable level of timber harvest primarily from younger second-growth forests. Sensitive areas and mature and old-growth forests would be set aside and protected. The forest lands open to harvest would remain under the ownership of the federal government, but be managed by a diverse, public board in trust for the counties.
Other elements of the proposal will appeal to those concerned with the future of the old-growth and other sensitive areas. The management of mature and old-growth forests would be transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service. The plan also proposes major new wilderness and wild and scenic river protections in key areas, such as the Rogue River area.
There’s a lot to like in this broad outline, but Oregonians ought to reserve judgment until the lawmakers fill in the details early next year. But something has got to change on the federal forests that cover half or more of many Oregon counties.
The status quo — the administrative gridlock and legal appeals, the drip, drip, drip of mill closures, the failing counties — threatens to hollow out rural Oregon. Already, falling school enrollments across timber country indicate that many families don’t see a future in these communities.
Of course, this congressional plan will trigger all the usual suspicion and reflexive opposition from those who have spent their lives fighting over activities in federal forests. But we still hope there is a place where most people can meet in the middle on federal forests, where timber harvest is carried out in a sustainable manner, where ancient trees are preserved, where rural counties can survive on stable federal timber revenues and fair contributions from local property taxpayers.
DeFazio, Walden, Schrader say they have put aside their differences and found that place in the middle. That’s good. Now they must lead the rest of us there.