Y-K Delta ranks among poorest regions in Alaska

by Ben Matheson on November 21, 2013

The Y-K Delta has some of the lowest incomes in the state according to a recent analysis by the Alaska Department of Labor.

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People in the Wade Hampton district earn just $22,000 per capita. That’s the worst in the state. The Bethel census area was 6th lowest at just over 3$2,000 per year. Mali Abrahamson is an economist with the state department of labor. She says the economy in the Wade Hampton area gives few opportunities to earn money.

“There are jobs, but that’s what kind of average annual income you’re going to expect from those. Bethel is slightly better, but still $10,000 under the statewide average for annual pay,” said Abrahamson.

69 percent of the jobs in Wade Hampton are in government, that’s the most in the state. Tribal Government amounts to 14 percent of those. The Bethel census area’s economy supports more private sector activity, with government employment at 45 percent.

Abrahamson says wages have stagnated overall over the past couple decades. In the region, she points to more people doing part time work.

“I think you had more and more people working a cash subsistence economy in which they had some wages throughout the year, and then none other parts of the year, and what you have is just this downfall of that,” said Abrahamson.

The report finds that a large chunk of people’s income originates in the form of government assistance. The Wade Hampton area has the highest proportion of income in the state that comes from what’s called transfer payments. 47% of income is from sources like food stamps, income assistance, and Medicaid.

Abrahamson notes that typical economic measurements do not include the valuable resources from the land and water that people in the region rely on.

“That’s one of the things that we can point to as far as your very low incomes is that non wage and salary and non cash income is not even considered in those measurements,” said Abrahamson.

The full report is published in the October issue of Alaska Economic Trends.

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