By Alex Tanzi
For the fifth year in a row, metropolitan areas in the U.S. outpaced rural and small towns in per capita personal income — total pay divided by population.
Metro areas increased 4.9% in 2018, up from 4.1% in 2017. In non-metro areas, per capita personal income increased 4.7%, up from 3.3%. The five year streak is the longest in records going back 50 years.
Per capita personal income last year averaged $56,527 for Americans living in metropolitan areas and $41,552 for those in smaller regions.
In terms of growth, Midland and Odessa, Texas, outpaced all 374 metro areas with the fastest growth, at 17.4% and 14.6% respectively. Midland leads the country in per capita personal income, too, with an average of $122,247 in 2018 — almost $96,000 higher than the lowest ranked McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, metro area.
Not surprisingly, Midland’s riches are drawing people to the city. It led all metro areas in population growth last year with a 4.4% gain. By contrast, populations in more than one in five metro areas shrank last year.
The trend could change, however. A recent drop in energy rigs in the area — a sign of future activity — has coincided with the moderation of job opportunities and in some cases a drop wages, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
The Commerce Department data released last week show that non-metro areas continue the slide as a share of overall personal income. Last year, just 10.6% of overall U.S. personal income came from non-metro areas — the smallest share since at least 1969.
From 2016 to 2018, per capita income in Midland grew by 28%. Among the top 5 areas where income grew fastest over the last two years, three are in Texas.