Census survey data: Minn. income continued downward slide in 2010

Median income data
New data indicates that Minnesotans' income took another hit in 2010, and the poverty rate edged up.
MPR Map/Elizabeth Dunbar

Minnesotans' income took another hit in 2010, and the poverty rate edged up, according to new American Community Survey data released Thursday.

Median household income fell from about $56,600 in 2009 to about $55,500 in 2010, with inflation already taken into account. Since 2007, median income has dropped by about 5 percent in Minnesota. The poverty rate increased from 11 percent to 11.6 percent from 2009 to 2010, and the uptick was even more pronounced among children: 15.2 percent in 2010 compared to 14.1 percent in 2009.

American Community Survey estimates are not a complete picture of statewide economic and demographic trends because the numbers are determined through surveys of about 2 percent of the population. And year-over-year estimates are only available for states, cities and counties with populations of 65,000 or more. In Minnesota, that means statewide 2010 survey data is available along with 12 out of 87 counties and eight cities.

The data is useful for annual comparisons, and the U.S. Census Bureau said the changes in both median income and the poverty rate in Minnesota from 2009 to 2010 were statistically significant.

In another sign the recession continued to hit Minnesota families hard in 2010, the percentage of families relying on food stamps increased by more than a percentage point to 7.6 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's estimates for Minnesota have been even higher — 9.4 percent as of earlier this year.

The percentage of Minnesotans on public health insurance also increased from 2009 to 2010, while the percentage of those holding private insurance fell.

The recession has hit Minnesota just as it has hit most states. The state unemployment rate spiked toward the end of 2008 and has not yet fully recovered.

Minnesota remains better off than most other states in terms of median household income and poverty statistics. In median household income, Minnesota ranks 13th nationally and is still ahead of all other states in the Midwest. The state has the 10th lowest poverty rate, following several eastern states, Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming. The ranking was the same for children living in poverty.

The state has the fourth-lowest percentage of households relying on food stamps and the fifth-lowest percentage of people without health insurance.

Minnesota's unemployment rate of 7.2 percent in August is also well below the national rate of 9.1 percent.

The state also scores high in terms of its residents' level of educational attainment. In 2010, nearly 92 percent of Minnesotans age 25 or older had a high school diploma or the equivalent. In that category, Minnesota ranked first in the nation in a statistical tie with Wyoming, Montana, New Hampshire, Alaska and Vermont. And Minnesota ranks 11th for the percentage of adults with a bachelor's degree.

The American Community Survey released detailed data for 12 Minnesota counties — Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted, Ramsey, St. Louis, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Washington and Wright — and eight cities — Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Duluth, Minneapolis, Plymouth, Rochester, St. Cloud and St. Paul.

Among the metro-area counties, Hennepin and Ramsey continue to be home to more people living below the poverty line, which in 2010 was defined as about $22,000 for a family of four. But within the counties, changes in the poverty rate from 2009 to 2010 were only deemed statistically significant in Hennepin County, where the poverty rate jumped from 11.6 percent to 13.8 percent.

St. Louis County had the lowest median household income among the counties covered by the yearly data with $41,800. It also had the highest poverty rate — 17.9 percent — followed by Ramsey County at 17.2 percent. Among cities, at least one in five people living in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud and Duluth were living below the poverty line. In Brooklyn Park, the poverty rate nearly doubled from 2009 to 2010.

St. Louis and Ramsey counties and the bigger cities don't stand out in comparison to all cities and counties in the state. While smaller counties are not included in the 2010 data because of small sample sizes, five-year combined American Community Survey data shows that Wadena County's median household income ranked the lowest from 2005 to 2009 at about $34,200.

The counties with the highest poverty rates during that time period were more rural that the ones included in the 2010 estimates: Mahnomen, Blue Earth, Nobles, Lake of the Woods and Wadena. The rates in those counties ranged from at least 13 percent in Wadena County to up to 20.5 percent in Mahnomen County.

Among smaller cities included in the five-year American Community Survey estimates, at least one in five residents of Winona, Mankato, Worthington, St. Peter, Eden Valley, Halstad and several other cities were living below the poverty line in the last five years.

Evidence of affluence in the Twin Cities suburbs continued. Median household income in suburban counties was at least $10,000 more than the state's median income, with Carver County leading the way with a median household income of about $80,000. But the median household income in Scott County took the biggest fall among metro counties — from about 85,600 in 2009 to 77,300 in 2010.

Other highlights from the American Community Survey 2010 data:

• The percentage of Minnesotans who speak a language other than English continues to inch up slightly. About 20.6 percent of Minnesotans were in this category in 2010.

• Mobile homes make up 3.7 percent of all housing units in the state. Only nine other states have a smaller percentage of mobile homes. About 18 percent of housing units in Minnesota were built before 1940.

• A slightly higher percentage of Minnesotans drove alone, and the percentage of Minnesotans carpooling dropped from 2009 to 2010. About 76.6 percent of workers drove alone in 2010. There was also a slight drop in the percentage of people using public transportation.

• A smaller percentage of Minnesota households ended up making at least $150,000 a year in 2010. In 2009, about 8.4 percent of households earned at least $150,000, compared to 8.1 percent in 2010.

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