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Americans may be paying more in rent than ever before, but they aren't having too much trouble affording the hike. According to the Census Bureau, the median monthly rent bill in the United States increased to $602 in 2000 from $571 in 1990. Yet rent today is more affordable than it was a decade ago, because for the first time in 50 years, the portion of the average household's income allotted for rent declined. According to the Census Bureau's findings, renters handed over 25.5 percent of their annual pay to their landlord in 2000, compared with 26.4 percent in 1990. Of course, where you live makes a huge difference in terms of how much money you have to fork over each month. Renters in California, for example, devote the largest share of their income to rent (27.7 percent), while renters in North Dakota spend the least (22.3 percent). Even so, rents in the Midwest may soon be on par with those out West. The Census Bureau found that the median monthly rent in the Midwest rose 5.3 percent between 1990 and 2000, compared with an increase of just 1.5 percent in the West.

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