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Gap Between Richest, Poorest Areas Widens; County Is 8th in Income

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Associated Press

The gap between the nation’s richest and poorest cities widened in 1987 as the posh Connecticut suburbs of New York stayed atop the per capita personal income list while Texas towns along the Mexican border remained last, the government reported Thursday.

But the wealth wasn’t concentrated on the East Coast. Orange County and two other California regions placed in the top 10 rankings in the report on 1987 personal income in the nation’s 318 metropolitan regions.

First place belonged to the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk-Danbury area of Connecticut, with per capita income of $26,316, the Commerce Department said.

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Bringing up the rear was the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area of Texas, with per capita income of $7,001. Orange County placed eighth, with per capita income of $21,444. The county was the third-highest-ranking California region, following San Francisco, which ranked second nationally with $24,593 per capita, and San Jose, which placed seventh nationally with $21,510.

Los Angeles, with a per capita income of $17,863, ranked 34th on the national list. San Diego, at $16,633, was 58th, and Riverside, at $15,075 was 117th.

With its reputation as a high-technology and business services center populated by well-paid professionals, Orange County’s ranking came as no surprise. In fact, a recent forecast by economists at Chapman College in Orange projects per capita income of more than $24,700 for 1989.

According to economists, incomes are high because the county has a good climate, close proximity to Southland recreation and business centers, an entrepreneurial business base and a shortage of housing.

The climate and locale make Orange County a popular place to live and work, and that demand, combined with the housing shortage, has boosted its real estate prices to among the highest in the nation. That, in turn, has forced businesses to increase wages so workers can afford to live in the county.

Nationally, the top and bottom income areas were the same as in 1986, but the gap between them grew as the 9.1% rate of per capita income growth in the Bridgeport area more than doubled the 4.2% pace in the McAllen region.

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The per capita income gap between the two regions was $19,315 in 1987, up from $17,412 a year earlier.

For the nation as a whole, per capita income rose 6% in 1987 to $15,484, according to the report by the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The study showed income in America’s cities advancing at an uneven pace--growing fastest in communities along the East Coast with slow-growth areas concentrated in the oil-producing states.

Twenty-three metropolitan areas registered per capita income growth at least 2 percentage points above the national average of 6%. Seven of those cities were in New England; six were in the Middle Atlantic region; five were in the Southeast.

Income in 60 metropolitan areas, meanwhile, grew at a rate that was at least 2 percentage points below the national average. Forty-one of those areas were in the oil-producing states of Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

“A lot of growth in New England is driven by services and high-tech industries,” said the bureau’s Kathy Albetski. “The slow growth was driven by the weakness in oil.”

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The fastest growth rate was recorded in the Visalia-Tulare-Porterville region of California, where per capita income rose 9.7% to $12,968, a level still well below the national average.

At the other end of the scale, two regions registered declines in 1987: per capita income fell 1.4% in Flint, Mich., to $14,723, and dropped 0.6% in Lafayette, La., to $12,363.

Here are the top 10 metropolitan areas for 1987 per capita personal income:

Bridgeport, Conn., $26,316; San Francisco, $24,593; Bergen-Passaic, N.J., $23,040; Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, N.J., $22,783; Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y., $22,001; Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia, $21,539; San Jose, $21,510; Orange County, $21,444; Lake County, La., $21,432, and West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, Fla., $21,246.

Here are the metropolitan areas in the bottom 10:

McAllen, Tex., $7,001; Laredo, Tex., $7,035; Brownsville-Harlingen, Tex., $7,409; Provo-Orem, Utah, $8,870; El Paso, Tex., $9,484; Las Cruces, N.M., $9,578; Pascagoula, Miss., $10,231; Houma-Thibodaux, La., $10,582; Jacksonville, N.C., $10,668, and Bryan-College Station, Tex., $10,688.

Times staff writer John O’Dell contributed to this report.

HOW STATE AREAS RANKED

California’s 23 metropolitan areas, their per capita personal income for 1987 as determined in a U.S. government survey, and their ranking on the national list:

Area Per Capita Income National Rank San Francisco $24,593 2 San Jose 21,510 7 Orange County 21,444 8 Oakland 19,896 20 Santa Barbara 18,909 25 Santa Rosa 18,510 28 Oxnard 18,133 32 Los Angeles 17,863 34 Santa Cruz 17,507 41 San Diego 16,633 58 Sacramento 16,300 64 Monterey 16,141 70 Vallejo 15,824 82 Riverside 15,075 117 Fresno 14,545 141 Bakersfield 13,914 170 Redding 13,849 175 Stockton 13,774 179 Modesto 13,567 193 Chico 13,013 228 Visalia 12,968 232 Merced 12,919 238 Yuba City 12,158 274

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