Utah’s Summit and Piute counties are about 200 miles apart geographically. But they are world’s apart financially, according to new Census estimates released Thursday.
Summit County — home of the posh Park City ski resort area — had the state’s highest median household income last year at $84,672. That was also 34th highest among the nation’s more than 3,100 counties.
Meanwhile, Piute County — an off-the-beaten-path agricultural area — had the state’s lowest median household income at $36,403.
That’s a difference of more than $48,000, with people in Piute earning only 43 percent of what people in Summit make. The statewide median was $57,067.
Officials in Summit and Piute both have explanations for their high or low incomes.
Claudia McMullin, chairwoman of the Summit County Council, said incomes are high there “because the land values are so high. The cost of living is so high, so you have to have a high income in order to live up here.”
She says the area has a lot to make it attractive.
“The reason the land values are so high is it’s a great place to live with mountains, three of the top ski resorts in America in town, open space, trails, active lifestyle. That’s why people move here. And this area tends to attract the educated professionals.”
In fact, McMullin says the county struggles to fill available minimum-wage and even middle-income jobs because many people figure they can’t afford to live there, and think it is too far to commute from Salt Lake County. “But we’re only 20 minutes away from the valley,” she said. “People just think it’s farther.”
Meanwhile, Piute County struggles with economic development.
“Agriculture and trucking are probably our biggest employers,” county Assessor Dale Bagley said about the area. “There isn’t a lot of industry. There are some seasonal jobs with recreation and tourism.”
He adds, “It’s not real lucrative, but we enjoy living here.”
Also, he said property values are rising there largely because the Paiute ATV trail is attracting more people from the Wasatch Front to buy recreational homes there.
While Piute had the state’s lowest median income, it increased by 6.8 percent between 2011 and 2012 — the second-fastest growth in the state behind only Wasatch County, where it increased by 10 percent. Statewide, the median increased by 2.3 percent in the year.
While Summit County had the state’s highest income, it actually dropped slightly in the year — down by 0.6 percent.
Three other counties also saw a drop in their incomes over the year — Sanpete, down 2.9 percent; Washington, 1.5 percent; and Carbon, 0.8 percent.
After Summit, counties with the next highest median income, in descending order, were: Morgan, $75,348; Davis, $69,019; Wasatch, $62,014; Tooele, $61,927; Uintah, $60,419; Salt Lake, $58,743; and Utah, $58,167.
The lowest median incomes, after Piute, were: San Juan, $38,329; Wayne, $40,185; Garfield, $41,786; Iron, $41,804; and Grand, $42,702.
The data also show where the lowest and highest poverty rates were.
The highest was in San Juan, where 27.3 percent of all residents live in poverty, followed by Piute at 22 percent and Iron at 18.4 percent.
The lowest poverty rate in the state was in Morgan at 6.1 percent, followed by Summit, 7.6 percent, and Davis, 8.4 percent. The statewide poverty rate was 13.0 percent.
The new data come from the Census Bureau’s 2012 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates. The estimates combine survey data with such things as aggregated federal tax information and food stamps data. It is produced for the U.S. Department of Education to use in its allocation formula for funding for Title I and related programs for the low-income.
Median household income among Utah’s counties, 2012
1 • Summit, $84,672
2 • Morgan, $75,348
3 • Wasatch, $62,014
4 • Tooele, $61,927
Statewide • $57,067
26 • Garfield, $41,786
27 • Wayne, $40,185
28 • San Juan, $38,329
29 • Piute, $36,403
Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates