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Who are the residents of the Key Peninsula? That depends to some extent on who you talk to. Happy retirees? Struggling families? Those with jobs at home or nearby? Those with work that requires a long commute? Waterfront or welfare?

In these data-driven times, there are some numbers that can help to frame the story. Jonathan White, director of marketing and member services at PenLight until his retirement in October, shared the results of PenLight’s customer survey at the Key Peninsula Community Council meeting in September.

PenLight conducts the survey every two years via phone and online with 600 customers. About two-thirds are from Gig Harbor and one-third are from the Key Peninsula, which reflects the numbers of customers served by PenLight. The survey is values weighted — that is, even though the number of people surveyed is relatively small, it is an accurate reflection of the whole population. U.S. Census data was also incorporated into the report.

White has compared survey results over the years, and he sees the arc of the story for both the Key Peninsula and Gig Harbor as one of transition. The area has changed from a rural fishing and farming community to a bedroom community and is evolving into a retirement community, he said.

The Key Peninsula is somewhat wealthier than Pierce County as a whole, is older and has more homeowners.

Here are some of the numbers that reflect the demographics.

On the Key Peninsula:

  • 37 percent are retired, 44 percent are working full time and fewer than 5 percent are unemployed.
  • 35 percent are age 65 or older, compared to 13 percent in Pierce County.
  • 84 percent own their homes, compared to 61 percent in Pierce County. Two-thirds of households have just one or two people and 72 percent of households have no children.
  • 63 percent of household incomes are over $50,000. In Pierce County, the median household income is $60,000 (that is, over half of households make $60,000 a year) and per capita income is $28,000.
  • With housing costs relatively low, families of limited means also come to this area to live. School data shows that many of the local families with children live in poverty. The free and reduced-price lunch program is available to students based on income.

For instance, a family of four with in income of less than $30,000 qualifies for free lunch, and with an income between $30,000 and $42,000, for a reduced-price lunch. All schools on the Key Peninsula have a significant number of students in need. The percentage of those qualifying for the lunch program are 60 percent at Evergreen, 43 percent at Vaughn, 35 percent at Minter Creek and 52 percent at KPMS.

The PenLight survey indicated that only 6 percent of households in the combined Key Peninsula and Gig Harbor area are seasonal, despite the number of small lakes and waterfront properties. This compares to over a quarter of homes in Mason County. But the Key Peninsula may actually be more like Mason County in terms of seasonal homes. A review of data available to realtors, comparing mailing addresses to Key Peninsula property addresses, showed that nearly 30 percent of 1,400 waterfront properties have mailing addresses elsewhere.

The data indicates that the Key Peninsula population is indeed diverse, ranging from retirees to young families, and from waterfront owners who may have primary residences elsewhere to those living in poverty.

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