5. Del Rio, Texas
> Pct. increase in income: 19.9%
> Median household income: $40,307
> Poverty rate: 21.2%
> Population: 35,612
Del Rio benefits from the presence of Laughlin Air Force Base, which provides massive economic benefits to the local economy. Del Rio’s economy also benefits from its proximity to far-larger Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. Also, the city’s total labor force grew by more than 10% between the two three-year periods beginning in 2007 and in 2010. Unlike other parts of Texas, Del Rio’s economy has not traditionally been a stronghold for oil and gas. Agriculture and mining accounted for just 3.2% of total civilian employment between 2010 and 2012, although the sector grew by 146% between the three-year periods starting in 2007 and 2010. While some areas of the city’s economy are growing, others are in decline. Construction dropped to just 3.6% of employment during the period of 2010 to 2012, down from 7.3% during the period of 2007 to 2009. Additionally, the city’s unemployment rate was 7.4% in 2012, still above pre-recession rates.
4. Bridgeton, N.J.
> Pct. increase in income: 21.6%
> Median household income: $39,890
> Poverty rate: 34.0%
> Population: 25,298
The agricultural industry has always been strong in Bridgeton, accounting for more than 5% of the region’s employment between 2007 and 2009, compared with less than 2% of employment nationwide. By the three-year period ending in 2012, the agricultural, forestry and mining sector’s share of employment in the city had more than doubled, making up 11.8% of the workforce. Despite the rise in agricultural employment and the increase in incomes, Bridgeton residents are still some of the poorest in the country. Unlike the other cities with rising incomes, poverty in Bridgeton worsened in the years under review. The poverty rate increased by 8.8 percentage points from the 2007 to 2009 period to the 2010 to 2012 period, among the worst nationwide.
3. West Lafayette, Ind.
> Pct. increase in income: 22.2%
> Median household income: $30,498
> Poverty rate: 36.4%
> Population: 30,238
Between 2007 and 2009, 10.4% of the population earned less than $10,000 a year, among the worst nationwide and roughly double the national rate of 5.7%. Extreme poverty had improved dramatically by the end of the three-year period ending in 2012, when just 0.2% of residents earned less than $10,000 a year. While the city’s median household income of slightly more than $30,000 was still considerably lower than the national median over that time, the city’s labor market was relatively healthy. In every year between 2007 and 2012, the unemployment rate remained far lower than the national rate. The sorts of jobs offered by Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, may account in part for the region’s stable labor force, since university jobs tend to be less volatile compared with those in other industries.
2. Nacogdoches, Texas
> Pct. increase in income: 23.7%
> Median household income: $30,059
> Poverty rate: 32.0%
> Population: 33,604
Between the two three-year periods starting in 2007 and 2010, home values in Nacogdoches increased by 29.8%, more than any U.S. city except for Clovis City, N.M. This may be a reflection of rising incomes in the region, which increased by 23.7%, from $24,310 a year to more than $30,000 a year between the 2007 to 2009 and 2010 to 2012 periods. Despite rising incomes, the area’s labor force did not grow considerably during the period. From 2007 to 2009, the percentage of people in the civilian labor force did not change meaningfully, while the area’s population rose by just 2.6%, from roughly 32,700 to 33,600. Nacogdoches County is home to large education and agriculture sectors. Stephen F. Austin State University is located in the city proper, where more than 33.3% of all employees in the city worked in education, health care and social assistance — more than most other cities in the United States.
1. New Bern, N.C.
> Pct. increase in income: 25.3%
> Median household income: $40,707
> Poverty rate: 22.8%
> Population: 30,074
Located less than two hours from Raleigh, New Bern’s median annual income rose from $32,476 in the three years ending in 2010 to $40,707 in the three years ending in 2012. No other city in America had such a considerable income growth. Additionally, during that time, the city’s civilian labor force participation rate jumped from 53% to nearly 62%. According to the New Bern Chamber of Commerce, the area’s “fast-growing population of highly skilled, active retirees has found employment in the small business and professional sectors.”