About Benton County Washington
Benton County is a county in the south-central portion of the U.S. state of Washington. As of the 2020 census, its population was 206,873. The county seat is Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. The Columbia River demarcates the county's north, south, and east boundaries. Benton County was created from what were then larger versions of Klickitat County and Yakima County on March 8, 1905 and was named after Missouri statesman Thomas Hart Benton.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,760 square miles (4,600 km2), of which 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2) is land and 60 square miles (160 km2) (3.4%) is water. The highest point of land elevation within the county is the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain at 3,527 feet, and the lowest point of land elevation is along the southwestern shore of Crow Butte at 265 feet (fluctuates due to the level of Columbia River).
Benton County, Included Cities and Towns
Benton County includes cities and towns such as Richland, Kennewick, Pasco, and West Richland. The County government is seated in Prosser. An attempt to move the county seat from Prosser to Kennewick resulted in a November 1984 ballot measure, which had 54.4 percent approval but failed to meet the required 60 percent threshold.
There are five incorporated cities within Benton County. The two larger cities—Kennewick and Richland—employ the "council-manager" form of government where the mayor is elected from the city council and serves a more ceremonial role, whereby direct administration of the city is the responsibility of the city manager. The three smaller cities—Benton City, Prosser, and West Richland—use the "mayor-council" form of government where the mayor is the chief administrator of the city and is directly elected by the citizens. In Washington, a majority of cities use the mayor-council form, but the council-manager structure is common among medium-sized municipalities.
Numerous special purpose districts with varying degrees of taxing and administrative authority such as port authorities and school districts oversee local responsibilities that are not a part of county or city governance.
Benton County Demographics
As of the 2010 census, there were 175,177 people, 65,304 households, and 45,699 families residing in the county. The population density was 103.0 inhabitants per square mile (39.8/km2). There were 68,618 housing units at an average density of 40.4 per square mile (15.6/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 82.4% white, 2.7% Asian, 1.3% black or African American, 0.9% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 9.0% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 18.7% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 22.3% were German, 13.4% were English, 12.5% were Irish, and 7.9% were American.
Of the 65,304 households, 36.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.8% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 30.0% were non-families, and 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.17. The median age was 35.6 years.
The median income for a household in the county was $57,354 and the median income for a family was $69,834. Males had a median income of $57,496 versus $36,575 for females. The per capita income for the county was $27,161. About 9.3% of families and 12.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.3% of those under age 18 and 6.1% of those aged 65 or over.
Benton County, Income and Industry
Estimated median household income in 2009: $57,457 ($47,044 in 1999) About 14,60% of Benton County’s population lived below the poverty line. With 25% attendance, Benton County has the lowest church attendance of all the Counties in The United States. The primary industry in Benton County is agriculture. Agriculture, lumber, wood products, and research and developments in printing technology from Benton County’s economic base.
Wine Industry of Benton County
In Benton County, the wine industry is also a rapidly growing industry. The Oregon State University also does significant research in engineering, education, forestry, and agriculture. During World War II and the Cold War years, the US Army purchased 1660km2 (640mi2) along the Columbia River near Richland for their Manhattan Project. The project involved the development of atomic bombs during World War II. Because of the availability of water and electricity the area around Richland in Benton County had the perfect location. The Hanford Atomic Reservation was established about 20 miles north of Richland in 1943. Within two years, Richland’s population grew from 300 to 25,000. This project made the nuclear power industry a contributing industry to Benton County’s economy.