Part Two of A Need for Affordable Housing, posted in December 2012, showed a significant difference between what many Lawrence renters earn and what they would need to earn to afford the 2011 $734 fair market rent or average cost of a two bedroom apartment without spending over 30% of monthly income on housing. The local disparity between wages and housing costs is often attributed to living in a college town. A recent report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, based on a comparison of 2011 per capita incomes for 366 metro areas, found that not all municipalities share lower per capita incomes traditionally associated with college town economics.
Perhaps the best comparison of college town per capita income "haves" versus per capita "have-nots" would be a contrast of two large state university towns - Manhattan and Lawrence. Manhattan has the 55th best per capita income of the 366 metro areas surveyed. Average 2011 Manhattan income was higher than Lawrence at $43,593, yet the average 2011 fair market cost of a two bedroom apartment was $61 lower at $673. Lawrence had a significantly lower $33,379 per capita income (271 out of 366), but the highest average cost for a two bedroom rental in surveyed Kansas markets (Please refer to the chart below).
Note: The annual update of fair market rental costs for 2013 has recently been released. Douglas County still has the highest cost in Kansas for a 2 bedroom rental - $860/month.