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Is your city sitting pretty?

The federal government on Thursday published its County and City Data Book: 2000, a treasure trove of information on the nation’s localities.
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Feeling flush? The folks in Pitkin County, Colo., sure are. (That’s where Aspen is.) They’re earning almost $60,000 for each man, woman and child in the county — more than twice the national average, and beating out just about everyone but those high-living types in Manhattan. As for where you stand yourself, the U.S. Census Bureau has churned up its databases and ranked America’s counties and cities in everything from male-female ratio to annual rainfall.

The results are published Thursday in its Special Decennial Census Edition, which uses the details of the 2000 census to tell us all exactly — headachingly so — how we’re keeping up not only against the Joneses, but against everyone from the Ashleys of Arco, Ark., to the Whipples of Wallula, Wash.

Assuming you’re into that sort of thing, of course.

In any event, some highlights:

If you lived in Loving County, Texas, you had plenty of room to yourself. The least populous county in the nation, its 67 residents each had over 10 square miles to spread out. Texas counties accounted for three of the five counties with the smallest populations. Kalawao County, Hawaii, and Arthur County, Neb., also joined the very, very exclusive club. The bottom five together (Texas’ King and Kenedy counties were the other two) had a combined population of just more than 1,400 people.

They weren’t the only ones with room to roam. Aside from Loving County, eight Alaska counties topped the list of those with the lowest density. With just 0.07 people per square mile, Lake and Peninsula Borough offered its 1,823 residents over 13 square miles apiece. Not quite meant for strip malls, though: It’s mostly national park and preserve. And roads? Don’t even ask. Garfield and Petroleum counties in north-central Montana rounded out the top 10.

In the big city
If your preference was for urban living — without giving up your space — you could pack either an extra fleece or a pair of shorts. Anchorage, Alaska, had the least density of all large cities, with 153 residents per square mile. Some other uncrowded options — Chesapeake, Va., Augusta, Ga., and Peoria, Ariz. — couldn’t touch the space of the Great North: Chesapeake, ranked next to Anchorage, had nearly 600 people per square mile.

Other folks weren’t able to spread out quite so much. Four boroughs of New York City, along with San Francisco, ranked as the most crowded places in the nation — topped of course by Manhattan, which squeezed 66,834 sard ... er, people, into each square mile. The East Coast jammed up the top 20; the only other Western city feeling quite so crowded was Denver, with more than 3,600 people per square mile. But that felt positively spacious compared to New York, which averaged 26,403 people in every square mile across its five boroughs.

On the road again
That wasn’t to say folks out West weren’t beginning to feel the squeeze. Most of the fastest growing counties between 1990 and 2000 were west of the Mississippi River, including Maricopa County, Ariz., which added nearly a million people over just 10 years. Maricopa County also had the largest amount of new home construction, along with Clark County, Nev., and Harris County, Texas. Colorado counties also saw huge growth rates, filling three of the top five spots, including Douglas County, which grew 191 percent over the decade.

Western cities saw a huge boom, too. Nine of the top 10 in growth rate were between Texas and the Pacific Ocean — led by Gilbert, Ariz., which saw its population nearly triple, along with Henderson and North Las Vegas, Nev. The lone top 10 boomer in the East was Pembroke Pines, Fla.

And where were they coming from? Back East, of course: Baltimore, Philadelphia, Allegheny County, Pa., Wayne County, Mich., and St. Louis, Mo., lost the most residents. The city of Baltimore shrank by nearly 85,000 people. Horace Greeley would be proud.

Bachelor bounty
If the ladies reading this were looking for a man, you too should have been heading westward. Crowley County, Colo., had the highest male-female ratio in the nation, with 205 fellas for every 100 gals. On the other hand, annual salaries were just 63.6 percent of the U.S. average, perhaps because a local prison hiked the male population. That paycheck was a frequent problem where the boys are, including such bachelor havens as Aleutians East Borough, Alaska; Union County, Fla.; and Concho County, Texas. One suggestion: You might try West Feliciana Parish, La.: It not only had 1.9 gents for each lady, but they earned some 130 percent of the national average salary. (The down side: Only 3,566 people in the workforce there.)

As for the single boys, take a gander at Clay County in southwest Georgia; Adams and Montgomery counties in Mississippi.; Marion County, S.C. and Hampshire County, Mass. — or the city of Fredericksburg, Va., where there are eight beaus for each 10 belles.

Before anyone packs bags, though, take a peek at the average age. Hooker County, Neb., for example, has 83.4 men to each 100 women, but the median age is 45.3, nearly 10 years older than the national average. Which may, of course, be just what you’re looking for.

Southern diversity
Texas also led the nation in counties with the highest Hispanic populations — most of them in the southern point between the Mexican border and the Gulf coast; two local cities, Laredo and Brownsville, also topped the list for the most Hispanic population. Of counties with the highest black populations, the top five contained two each from Mississippi (Jefferson, Claiborne) and Alabama (Macon, Greene) and Petersburg County in Virginia — all at some 80 percent or more.

Gary, Ind., had the largest black population of any large American city, followed by Detroit and Birmingham, Ala., all more than 70 percent. Shannon County, S.D., and Wade Hampton Borough, Alaska, had the highest native American population: each more than 90 percent. Several areas of Hawaii, plus San Francisco and its suburbs, had the largest Asian populations.

A dollar here, a dollar there
If you lived in the nation’s capital, or in neighboring Alexandria, Va., you probably were living alone — with 43 percent of your fellow residents. On the other hand, if you lived in Fontana, Moreno Valley or El Monte, Calif., you and 90 percent of the population were sharing your homes. For that matter, if you were in Newark, Jersey City or Elizabeth, N.J., or in Hartford and New Haven, Conn., you probably were renting your place. In that case, your friendly mortgage broker might recommend a move to Livonia and Warren, Mich., Gilbert and Peoria, Ariz., or Pembroke Pines, Fla., where you could join the arriving crowds in buying your own spread. Over 80 percent of folks did.

If you were buying that home in Livonia — or renting that pad in Alexandria — it might have been because jobs were so plentiful. Folks there, along with Ann Arbor, Mich., Sioux Falls, S.D., and Cambridge, Mass., all had unemployment under 1.6 percent in 2000. It was grim times, though, in Brownsville and Gary, along with parts of central California and Flint, Mich. All led the nation in unemployment.

For residents of Bellevue, Wash., Clearwater, Fla., or Knoxville, Tenn., the time to spend came at the cash register. All of them, along with Costa Mesa and Torrance, Calif., rang up over $22,000 in retail sales per resident. But if you opted for the big city — including Washington and New York — or for Stamford, Conn., or Alexandria, that money was going straight to City Hall. All topped the nation in city taxes, at over $1,900 per capita.

Settling down
Feel like a spring chicken? Wade Hampton Borough in Alaska had the youngest population, with more than 46 percent of its residents under age 18. Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough, as well as South Dakota’s Shannon, Todd, Buffalo and Ziebach counties, and Sioux County, N.D., also had over 40 percent apiece.

If, however, retirement was on your mind, you probably were heading — or had already gone — to Florida. Honolulu, Hawaii, plus Sunshine State cities, led by Clearwater, had the highest over-65 populations in the nation.

Perhaps it was those balmy January temperatures, which also averaged over 65. You were less lucky in Sioux Falls, Minneapolis or St. Paul, where the January chill was worst. You might be inclined to head to the Southwest — at least for a few months. Come July, all 10 hottest cities in the United States were in Arizona and Nevada.

If, instead, you headed to the Southeast, you probably wanted to bring an umbrella. Tallahassee, for instance, gets socked with nearly 66 inches of rain a year. The entire Gulf Coast, actually, was on the wet side. And despite what those folks in the Northwest told you, Seattle and Portland — each with about 37 inches a year — weren’t exactly wiped away in a deluge. New York, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. — even Orlando and Houston — got more rain.

The driest? Las Vegas aces that one with just 4.13 inches per year. Pack the lounge wear, skip the slicker.