North Dakota was the great exception to the Great Recession.
The only area in the country that saw both a widespread significant increase in household incomes and a significant decrease in poverty rates over the past five years was North Dakota, specifically Western North Dakota, according to 2012 data the U.S. Census Bureau released and mapped out on Thursday.
Median household incomes in more than half the counties in the state, including most on the western side, where oil production is booming, are higher today than before the recession began in 2007, and they're also higher in objective monetary terms than most of the rest of the country. Household incomes are also up in South Dakota. Western North Dakota's oil patch is one of the few places that not only weathered the Great Recession, but thrived. See the full version of this map.
Over the past five years, since 2007, 62 percent of all counties in North Dakota saw increases in their median household incomes, and 33 percent in South Dakota saw increases.
"One could say that these two states represented nearly 50 percent of all counties which showed a statistically significant increase in median household income," the bureau finds.
By contrast, of the other 3,000-plus counties nationwide, just 56 had a similar "statistically significant increase" in household incomes. Of all the counties that had a significant change in income levels, 89 percent saw declines.
Western North Dakota is one of the few areas outside of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions that has counties with household incomes above the national average, which was $51,371 in 2012. Western North Dakota was also one of the few areas where the poverty rate decreased over the past five years, to be well below the national average of 15.9 percent.
The Census Bureau doesn't say what is causing North Dakota to stand out as it clearly does in its maps. But the oil boom that's taken over the western part of the state — and is having ripple effects throughout the region and the rest of the U.S. — is indisputably a huge economic driver.
The state produced almost a million barrels a day of petroleum in September, its Mineral Resources Department reported in November. That's up from about 100,000 barrels a day in January 2005. North Dakota has gone from being the ninth-largest producer of oil nine years ago to second behind only Texas today.