Wednesday, August 27, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) Maryland has the nation’s highest median household income, but new estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau also show Maryland’s poverty rate is rising.

The figures released Tuesday show the average Maryland household brought in $68,080 last year. That’s a 1.6 percent increase over the year before.

But experts warn that the numbers from 2007 don’t take into account current realities such as rising food and gas prices.

“From a demographic perspective, 2007 may really end up being the final good year of the decade,” said Anirban Basu, chief executive of the Baltimore economic consulting firm Sage Policy Group Inc. “I think it will be said that 2007 will be the last year of American economic expansion.”

Three of the nation’s 10 wealthiest counties are in Maryland. Howard County came in third with a median household income of $101,672. Calvert County ranked sixth and Montgomery County ranked 10th.

Despite that good showing, Howard County officials are wary for the future.

“It’s confirmation that Howard County’s location, business climate and quality of life combines to make it a compelling location for business,” said Dick Story, CEO of the county’s Economic Development Authority. He cautioned, however, that “the entire nation is on the precipice of a significant economic downturn, and Howard County is not immune.”

Maryland’s 8.3 percent poverty rate is lower than the national average, but it climbed from 7.8 percent a year earlier. In Baltimore City, the poverty rate rose from 19.5 to 20 percent. Meanwhile, Baltimore County’s rate decreased from 8.4 to 7.8 percent.

Poverty advocates wonder how poverty rates can be so high in such a wealthy state.

“How is it possible that the wealthiest state in the wealthiest nation in the world has a rising poverty rate and such a high poverty rate?” said Matthew Weinstein, Baltimore regional director of Progressive Maryland.

The number of Marylanders without health insurance showed a decrease small enough to be considered statistically insignificant. Last year, 762,000 people didn’t have health insurance, or 13.7 percent of the population, compared with 776,000 in 2006, or 13.8 percent of Marylanders.

Information from: The (Baltimore) Sun,

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