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Of 3,142 counties in the United States, Utah's Morgan County has the 12th lowest poverty rate, according to estimates released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Morgan County's 2013 poverty rate was 5.4 percent, the study says. The lowest in the nation was 3.6 percent in Douglas County, Colo., and the highest was in Crowley County, Colo., at 43.2 percent.
The census study provided estimates for even small-population areas for allocation of federal funds for anti-poverty programs. The study uses survey estimates plus administrative records and other census data.
Logan Wilde, chairman of the Morgan County Council, has an interesting theory about why poverty rates are so low there.
"I think it's because the majority of people in Morgan commute out of the county to go to work, and I think the cost of commuting keeps the poverty rate down here," he says.
In other words, the poor really can't afford to live there because of commuting costs, and go elsewhere, he said.
"There's not a lot of jobs" in Morgan County, he said. And he said people below the poverty level there have complained to him "about the high cost of commuting…. Taxes are fairly low here. But the cost of living is fairly high. Groceries are little higher. Gasoline is a little higher."
Morgan County was the only county in Utah that finished among the top or bottom 30 nationally for poverty, but several others were among the top for just the West region where Morgan County ranked fourth lowest.
Others in the top 30 in the West, out of 447 counties, were No. 12 Daggett County, with a poverty rate of 7.5 percent; No. 13 Summit County, 7.7 percent; and tied at No. 24 were Davis and Wasatch counties, 8.2 percent.
San Juan County, home of the Navajo Reservation, finished among the bottom 30 counties in the West for poverty, ranking No. 429 out of 447.