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Central Valley Named Poorest Region In State

Associated Press

(Sept. 20, 2012)-- Three metropolitan areas in California's Central Valley, the region with the highest farm revenues in the country, rank among the poorest in the state and nation, Census figures released Thursday show.

Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield-Delano areas are among the top five U.S. regions with the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line.

The Fresno area, ranked as the second most impoverished in the nation, trailed only the U.S.-Mexico border area of McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, the American Community Survey figures show.

Bakersfield-Delano and Modesto ranked fourth and fifth. The data compared large metro areas in 2011 of half million people or more.

The valley's poverty rate is high even though its agricultural productivity is soaring. California is home to a $35 billion agricultural industry and Fresno County produces more than $5.6 billion in agricultural products. One in four people in the county lived under the poverty line in 2011.

In California, one in six residents lived in poverty. California's poverty rate went up slightly, from 15.8 to 16.6 percent. Median income fell from $59,540 in 2010 to $57,287 in 2011.

In Fresno County, median income fell from $46,479 to $42,807. Unemployment in the county rose to 16 percent and food stamp use increased to nearly 18 percent.

By comparison, the statewide unemployment rate is 12 percent, and California's food stamp use is placed at 8 percent.

While Fresno's poverty rate declined by a percentage point in 2011 to 25.8 percent – a statistically insignificant decrease – it ranked as the poorest metro area in the state for the second year in a row.