It’s Good to be a Farm State (Statistically Speaking)

By Guest Blogger – Randy Cantrell, Rural Sociologist – University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension – for more information email Randy at rcantrell1@unl.edu

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analpersonalincomesummaryysis, between 2010 and 2011 Nebraska ranked 4th among all states in growth in per capita income: A one-year growth rate of 7.6%.  In general, per capita income growth for that year was led by Great Plains and Midwestern states, where agricultural income has been at historic highs. Indeed, USDA estimates indicate a growth in Nebraska’s total farm income from $4.7-billion to over $7.5-billion during that period.

For some agricultural counties in Nebraska, growth in per capita income between 2010 and 2011 was nothing less than astounding, with nine counties recording growth of over 30-percent, while a decline in per capita income was recorded in only one Nebraska county (Chase).

Overall, per capita income grew most quickly in Nebraska’s 28 frontier counties which on average saw a 21.7% increase. These are very rural counties with no community of 2,500 residents and fewer than six people per square mile. Nebraska’s 22 small town counties (which also have no town of 2,500 but a population density greater than 6 persons per square mile) also did well, recording an average per capita income increase of 20.2%.

For both of those very rural county groups, per capita income and growth in per capita income exceeded that which was found on average in Metropolitan Counties.

Of course, none of this means that the average rural Nebraskan saw a big increase in personal income, since it is likely that the bulk of the income growth accrued specifically to farmers. Still, to the extent that those dollars are spent locally the recent economic success of agriculture is creating opportunities within the Nebraska’s rural economy. We’ll have to wait for 2012 data to see how drought may have affected these numbers.

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