How Well Have Rural and Small Metropolitan Labor Markets Absorbed Welfare Recipients?. Lower Wages Across Industries


There is substantial evidence that metropolitan areas offer higher wages and salaries than nonmetropolitan areas.(22) The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) National Compensation Survey, collected wage and salary information from establishments with 50 or more workers in goods-producing and service industries, and state and local governments.(23) Analysis from this survey found that in 1997:

  • Metropolitan area workers overall earned an average of $15.73 per hour compared to $11.84 earned by workers in nonmetropolitan areas.
  • In private goods-producing industries, metropolitan area workers averaged $16.40 an hour, compared to $12.06 for similar workers in nonmetropolitan areas.
  • In the service industries, metropolitan workers averaged $14.44 an hour, compared to an hourly rate of $9.77 for workers in nonmetropolitan areas.
  • In each of the nine census regions, metropolitan areas paid higher wages.

In addition, the gap between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan wages may be growing. Between 1998 and 1999, real median income for households residing in metropolitan areas increased by 2.1 percent (for households in central cities, income rose by 5.0 percent). However, the median income of households outside metropolitan areas remained statistically unchanged.(24)