South Dakota's median household income is holding steady, even as that figure falls elsewhere in the country, according to U.S. Census information released Wednesday. However, the state still falls below the national average.

Nationally, household incomes dropped 1.2 percent, from $51,144 in 2010 to $50,502 in 2011, according to the American Community Survey statistics released by the Census.

South Dakota and neighboring states held up well. South Dakota's median income increased from $46,993 in 2010 to $48,321 in 2011, or about 2.8 percent. That change falls within the survey's margin of error  but still indicates the state is trending upward. South Dakota's relatively stable economy is one reason it doesn't suffer as much when there is an economic downturn or an upswing, according to one expert.

"We simply didn't experience as great of an economic downturn as the rest of the country did in this period," said Reynold Nesiba, associate professor of economics at Augustana College in Sioux Falls.

Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming each showed income increases, while Colorado dropped slightly and Minnesota stayed the same.

Nesiba said because the numbers are based on pre-drought years, the agricultural economy, which prospered during that year compared to other industries, may have boosted the numbers.

But because South Dakota  lags behind the national average, "Policymakers need to keep this in mind, and we need to continue to attract, retain and create higher-wage jobs that pay living wages in South Dakota," Nesiba said.

The Census reported figures only for counties or cities with a population of more than 60,000. Incomes in Minnehaha County outpace those in Pennington County. 

Minnehaha County's median household income is $51,365, more than the national average. Pennington County's median household income is $48,981, below the national average.

Nevada had the biggest drop in median household income, at 6 percent. Vermont had the largest increase, 4 percent.  Maryland residents make the most money, with the median household earning $70,976.

Contact Ryan Lengerich at 394-8418 or ryan.lengerich@rapidcityjournal.com.

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