Census report: Incomes dropped 4 percent in Collier in past year, at 5-year low

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— Mirroring a national trend, median income in Collier and Lee counties dipped to a five-year low in 2011, according to statistics the government is releasing today.

The median household income in Collier County decreased to $50,564 in 2011, a 4.1 percent decrease compared with 2010, according to the annual report called the American Community Survey.

Those in lower-income brackets gained ground in Collier County, while the rate of households making more than $75,000 dropped, according to the report that the U.S. Census Bureau is making public today.

Lee County's median income also dropped, but not as much as Collier's. Lee's fell 0.2 percent in 2011 to $45,266, compared with a year earlier.

"We are seeing some impacts there on the high incomes," said Gary Jackson, economics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero, of the Collier decline. "Some of those people have probably dropped down because of the recession . . . The state was hit hard, but this area was hit particularly hard."

For years, Collier residents earned more than the national median income. However, the latest data shows that as of 2011, Collier's median income is on par with the rest of the country, which had a median income of $50,502. The median is the point at which half the figures are lower and half are higher.

The survey defines income to include wages and salaries, commissions, interest and dividends, and income from trusts and estates, as well as Social Security and public assistance payments, among other sources.

From 2007 to 2011, Collier and Lee counties saw that income rate plummet 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively, as a recession slammed the country, in particular construction-focused Southwest Florida.

Throughout Florida, income-earners brought in 14 percent less during the same period, while the U.S. median income dropped 8 percent.

Since 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau has conducted the annual American Community Survey, tallying social and economic data between the full census each decade. Some 3 million households participate, allowing the agency to extrapolate the information and publish estimates yearly.

The latest American Community Survey also showed that:

■ While roughly a quarter of Southwest Florida residents received retirement income from 2007 to 2011, the average retirement income dropped about $4,000 to $38,185 in 2011 in Collier County, while in Lee it increased from $28,143 to $29,864.

■ Although the rate of food stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients in Collier and Lee counties is below current national and state figures, both saw participation levels quadruple from 2007 to 2011, to 8.2 percent in Collier and 10.8 percent in Lee.

■ Since 2007, both Collier and Lee experienced approximately a 6 percent increase in households with one or more people 65 years and older, to 46 percent and 41 percent respectively. Meanwhile, in the same period, Florida and the U.S. saw about a 2 percent increase.

■ Collier County residents got slightly older in 2011, with the median age increasing by nearly a year to 47.8 compared with the 2010 figure. The U.S. median age last year was 37.3.

■ While the number of Hispanics increased only marginally at the local and national levels, the Cuban population in Collier County surged. Cubans made up 4.7 percent of the Latino population in 2010 but that jumped to 8.1 percent in 2011, the biggest gain in any racial or ethnic group in both counties.

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