Big cities are starting to recover from the Great Recession, but rural areas are still having a hard time

The US Census delivered a stunning report about household income trends on Tuesday.

Among other things, the report noted that median household incomes rose for the first time since 2007 (and saw the largest increase on record, no less), and the US saw the largest annual percentage point decrease in poverty since 1999.

But, notably, the report also included some data on two striking differences between households in metropolitan areas — big cities and their surrounding counties — and households outside of metropolitan areas in the last year.

The two big takeaways are:

1. Metro areas saw real median household incomes surge, while non-metro areas did not.

The US Census notes that households in metro areas saw a 6.0% increase for median incomes from 2014 to 2015 from $55,920 to $59,258, and those of households in “principal cities of metropolitan areas” surged by 7.3% in the same time frame. Also, regions in metro areas but outside the principal cities — mostly suburban households — had the highest median income of $64,144.

Meanwhile, households outside of metro areas — that is, in rural areas or small towns — did not see a statistically significant change in median income. Plus, households outside metro areas had the lowest median income of $44,657.

2. Metro areas saw poverty drop, while non-metro areas did not.

The US Census reported that the poverty rate in metropolitan statistical areas dropped to 13.0% in 2015, down from 14.5% in 2014; the number of metro area residents in poverty dropped to 35.7 million from 38.4 million. Taking a closer look, the poverty rate for those living in metro areas but not in the principal cities was 10.8%, a drop from 11.8% in the prior year, and the poverty rate of those living in principal cities was 16.8%, a drop from 18.9%.

Meanwhile, the poverty rate of those living outside of statistical areas was 16.7% in 2015 — a rate that wasn’t statistically different from 2014, although, the number of non-metro residents in poverty dropped to 7.4 million from 8.2 million.

In short, the data suggest that households in metro areas saw incomes surge and a noticeable reduction in poverty last year, while those outside did not.

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