Transfer payments to residents in nonmetro areas outpace payments to metro residents

A chart showing the per capita government transfer payments to individuals, years 1969 to 2011.

Government transfer payments comprise a large share of personal income for both nonmetro and metro residents. In 2011, transfer payments to individuals accounted for 24.8 percent of total personal income in nonmetro areas and 16.3 percent in metro areas. Per capita in 2011, nonmetro residents received more government transfers than metro residents: $8,236 vs. $7,022. Since 1978, nonmetro per capita transfer payments (adjusted for inflation) have risen faster than payments in metro areas. Most of this increase comes from the rising cost of government programs that provide medical benefits, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Because nonmetro areas have an older population and a higher proportion of persons with disabilities than metro areas, nonmetro areas receive more transfer payments. Between 2010 and 2011, per capita transfer payments fell, primarily due to a decline in unemployment insurance compensation, which fell 25 percent in both metro and nonmetro areas as benefits expired. This chart is found in the Rural Poverty & Well-being topic page on the ERS website, updated November 2012.

Download larger size chart (480 pixels by 403, 96 dpi)