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Census: Incomes Rising, But Persistent Inequality Still Plagues Nevada

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New data show the price of housing is higher in Nevada than the national average, while incomes are lower. (Cohdra/Morguefile)
New data show the price of housing is higher in Nevada than the national average, while incomes are lower. (Cohdra/Morguefile)
 By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV - Producer, Contact
September 15, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Almost 14 percent of Nevadans live below the federal poverty level - but that's an improvement over last year and is a little better than the national average, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The new statistics show that the median household income is rising, and stands at about $55,000. That's a bit under the national average, but the median price of a home is almost $35,000 higher than the national figure.

Elliott Parker, a professor of economics at the University of Nevada Reno, says the Reno area's white-hot real estate market, in particular, has hurt lower income families.

"Housing prices here have grown the fastest of any of the 400 metropolitan areas in the nation," he says. That is relative to the bottom we hit several years ago. I think it was around 2012 when housing prices finally stopped declining."

Anti-poverty advocates have been trying for years to get a bump in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This year, the Legislature passed a $12-an-hour minimum wage, and $11 if you have health insurance, but Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed that measure. The next Legislature doesn't meet until 2019 - after next year's election.

Parker says persistent inequality - the gap in income between rich and poor - is particularly striking in the Silver State.

"Nevada has one of the more unequal distributions of income in the nation," notes. "Some numbers I've seen suggest that the top one percent has 44 times the income of the average of the bottom 99 percent, and there's only a couple states in the country that have a higher ratio than that."

The supplemental poverty rate, which takes cost of living into account, shows Nevada is a more expensive place to live compared with the national average.

Almost 14 percent of Nevadans live below the federal poverty level - but that's an improvement over last year - according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Suzanne Potter has more.

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