Census survey data: Minnesotans' incomes took a hit in 2009

Minnesotans' incomes took a hit and more residents were living in poverty in 2009 as the economic recession continued, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The estimated median household income in Minnesota fell to $55,616 compared to $57,288 in 2008, according to the American Community Survey data, which is calculated from surveys conducted with 2 percent of the U.S. population.

The percentage of people living below the poverty line increased by about one percentage point to 11 percent, the 11th lowest among states. But the percentage of Minnesota children living below the poverty level jumped from 11 percent in 2008 to 14 percent in 2009. The poverty line in 2009 was set at $21,954 for a family of four.

Barbara Ronningen, a demographer at the Minnesota State Demographic Center, said the increase in people living in poverty in the state is real. She also said state officials will be looking closely at the data to see what effect it might have on budgets for social services.

"That was a significant increase statistically measured," she said of the poverty rate. "There are lots of implications for that in terms of service needs and also in terms of revenue. ... They're living below the poverty line, obviously they're not generating as much income as they might have been doing in the past, then revenue for the state will go down."

Ronningen said the data shows Minnesota is faring similar to other states during the recession, and the state's national ranking in many of the economic indicators is similar to past years.

"It's hitting us about the same as other states," she said.

The number of Minnesota households earning less than $15,000 a year grew by about 13,000 from 2008 to 2009. But the number of households earning greater than $100,000 a year dropped -- from about 463,000 households in 2008 to about 432,000 in 2009 -- indicating the recession has affected the earnings of both the rich and poor.

Nationally, the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew. In Minnesota, though, Ronningen said while the data showed a wider gap, it wasn't statistically significant. The income gap between the rich and poor in Minnesota remains smaller than for the nation.

The survey showed that housing values also took a hit, which also wasn't surprising given that the current economic recession is so closely tied to a crisis in the housing market.

In Minnesota, the median home value dropped by nearly 6 percent from 2008 to 2009, which is considered a significant drop in just one year, Ronningen said. The median home value in 2009 was $200,400.

Meanwhile, about half of Minnesotans who rent their homes or apartments spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Incomes decreased, yet rental rates edged up slightly.

"We're seeing more and more people paying what is considered a risky amount of their income for rent," Ronningen said. "If you're paying than a third of your income for rent, you really don't have a whole lot left for things other than the basics."

In Minnesota, localized data was available for the state's 12 largest counties. The poverty rates were highest in St. Louis and Ramsey counties -- which each showed more than 16 percent living in poverty -- followed by Stearns and Hennepin. In each of those four counties, the poverty rate had increased between 2008 and 2009 by an average of more than 2 percentage points.

In other statewide numbers available in the survey data:

_ Minnesota's total population increased by less than 1 percent between 2008 and 2009 to an estimated 5,266,215. But the number that counts is the actual census conducted this year. That number hasn't yet been released.

_ Minnesota remains 13th in the nation in household median income. Household median income is also the highest of any other state in the Midwest.

_ Minnesota remains one of the most educated states. It ranks 2nd in the nation for the percentage of adults who have completed high school (91 percent) and 11th in the percentage of people 25 and over who have completed a bachelor's degree (31 percent), leading the Midwest.

_ Minnesota remains one of the whitest states. An estimated 85 percent of Minnesotans described themselves as white and non-Hispanic, which ranks 11th nationally. About 4.4 percent of Minnesotans are black or African American, 1 percent are American Indian and 3.7 percent are Asian. An estimated 4.3 percent of Minnesotans are Hispanic or Latino.