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Story Last modified at 11:40 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27, 2011

State of the 'Nation of Eagle River'
State demographer shares local statistics

Alaska Star

Chugiak and Eagle River, you're still rich, smart and good-looking.

But you probably also weren't born in Alaska and tend to make that commute all by yourself.

That's the word from state people-counter Neal Fried, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development demographer who keeps track of who lives where in Alaska.

Fried shared some new U.S. Census stats on the local population at the April 20 Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The numbers he shared derived not from the statistics released every 10 years but from information the Census collects every year and releases about every five years.

Fried joked that he was the person who originally coined the "rich, smart, and good-looking" moniker for what he called "the Nation of Eagle River" when he trotted out statistics a few years back about the relatively high income and education level of locals.

"I thought it would be on the sign when I was driving into Eagle River, but it wasn't," Fried joked at the luncheon at the Elks Lodge.

His "rich" joke stems from these statistics: Chugiak-Eagle River's average household income was $101,725 compared to $87,830 for Anchorage. Median home values range from $232,000 to $362,000, compared to $256,000 in Anchorage.

His "smart" label comes from these stats: 38 percent of residents have a bachelor's degree or better, compared to 32 percent in Anchorage and 27 percent statewide.

Fried last shared Chugiak-Eagle River data four or five years ago. He said the recent results aren't really that different.

The 2010 population count for the six census tracts in the area is 34,982. That's a 17 percent increase over the decade, slightly higher than that of Anchorage (13 percent) and the state (also 13 percent). Chugiak-Eagle River accounts for about 12 percent of Anchorage's population, by the way.

Chugiak-Eagle River is less racially diverse than Anchorage, also not a surprise, Fried said. Some 85 percent of residents identified themselves as white, compared to 5 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Alaska Native, and roughly 2 percent black or Asian. Nearly 6 percent said they were two or more races. About 66 percent of Anchorage residents identified themselves as white.

A few data sets, however, jumped out at the demographer, he said.

More than half the local population has moved into their homes since 2000. Only about 1 percent lived here before 1970.

And fewer Chugiak-Eagle residents were born in Alaska, at least compared to other parts of the state. Roughly a quarter, or 26 percent, of locals were born here. Statewide, 40 percent of residents are native Alaskans. In Anchorage and the Mat-Su, that number is around 35 percent.

Someone in the audience at the chamber suggested that Eagle River's military population might account for the statistic. Military families that gravitate to town tend to move often. In a related statistic, 21 percent of residents say they're veterans, compared to about 15 percent in Anchorage and statewide.

Chamber president Susie Gorski gave credit for the relatively low number of native born Alaskans to the Chamber's marketing strategy – entice Lower 48 residents to move here for the "remote location" that's near a job in the city.

Three-quarters of Chugiak-Eagle River commuters say they drive alone to work. Most residents heat their homes with gas. Many own their own homes – 82 percent compared to 64 percent in Anchorage.

More people are married here, too – 65 percent – than in other parts of the state. Curiously, more women say they are married than men, Fried said. But he didn't have an explanation for that.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, April 28, 2011.