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Poor Texans Pace U.S. Now Beating Rwanda's Rich-Poor Gap

The annual snapshot of the U.S. by the Census Bureau makes one thing clear: You don’t want to be a female choreographer living in McAllen, Texas, and renting your home. On the plus side, the city’s Sun Belt location would put you in a good position to be one of the small but growing number of Americans using solar power for heat. Here are a few such highlights from the 2011 American Community Survey of some 3.5 million households in places with more than 65,000 people:

EQUITY

Full-time female workers earn 79 cents for every $1 earned by men. At the current annual gain of 0.4 cents, they will achieve parity by mid-2063.

A government figure that measures the gap between rich and poor shows U.S. income inequality has surpassed the level found in Rwanda and is now double Sweden’s rate. The gap was highest in the Naples-Marco Island, Florida, metro area.

WORKING

Commutes lengthened to an average of 25.5 minutes.

The largest share of college graduates, more than 12 million Americans, held business degrees, more than twice the 5.3 million people who majored in science or engineering fields.

Salaries fell or stayed flat in 339 of 526 occupations tracked by the Census Bureau. The average salary for a dancer or choreographer fell 32.5 percent to $24,419, the biggest drop over the year.

Income fell 1.3 percent to $66,634 for 961,000 financial managers, and dropped 4.3 percent to $70,421 for the nation’s 241,700 securities, commodities and financial services sales agents.

Food-processing workers, who include slaughterhouse employees, represented the fastest-growing occupation in the nation last year. Their ranks grew to 94,600, a 51 percent increase from 2010, and salaries climbed 12.6 percent to a median of $31,400.

INCOME

Household income fell to $50,502 in 2011, a $1,045, or 2 percent, inflation-adjusted drop.

The nation’s capital remained home to the highest median household incomes among U.S. metro areas. The Washington area reported a median income of $86,680, a $378 drop from 2010.

Forty-two states reported declines in median household income. The largest drop occurred in Nevada, where the average household suffered a $3,604 loss to $48,927. Vermont led the eight gaining states, with a $1,888 increase to $52,776. Maryland remained home to the highest-income households, with a median of $70,004.

The number of households making more than $200,000 grew to 4.3 percent, up from 3.9 percent. The number of households making less than $10,000 climbed to 7.8 percent, up from 7.6 percent.

POVERTY

McAllen was the nation’s poorest metro area, with a poverty rate of 37.7 percent. More than 1 in 3 of the Texas city’s households, or 34.7 percent, reported receiving food stamps, the nation’s highest amount. McAllen took over the top poverty spot from the Brownsville, Texas, metro area, which fell to No. 2 with a poverty rate of 34.1 percent. The Laredo, Texas, metro area ranked third, with 32.9 percent of people living in poverty.

Almost 21 million children lived in homes receiving government disability, welfare or food stamp payments.

The price of bringing every poor American above the poverty line became steeper, rising to almost $183 billion from the 2010 estimate of $170 billion.

HOMES

The median value of a U.S. home fell to $173,600, down 3.5 percent.

The number of traditional married-couple families continued to fall further below majority status, dropping to 48.3 percent of all U.S. households, down from 48.6 percent in 2010. The percentage of married women fell to 46.6 percent from 47.1 percent in 2010.

The percentage of grandparents responsible for the full-time care of their grandchildren fell to 38.7 percent, down from 39.1 percent in 2010.

Two California cities, Newport Beach and Palo Alto, reported median home values exceeding $1 million; 24 of the 25 cities with the highest median home values were in California.

The lowest median home values were reported in Lumberton, North Carolina. Half of homes in the area close to the South Carolina border were valued at $70,700, a 6.2 percent increase from 2007.

About 44 percent of renters reported paying more than 35 percent of their income for housing; only 28.1 percent of owners said they spent an equivalent amount.

The number of households that reported using solar power for heat grew by about 7,500 to 49,000, an increase of 18 percent over the 2010 tally. That still represents zero percent of the nation’s 115 million households.

To contact the reporter on this story: Frank Bass in New York at Fbass1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark McQuillan at mmcquillan@bloomberg.net

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