Personal income per capita in the United States rose substantially faster than inflation over the past decade, despite the nation's recent economic troubles, and reached $8,773 nationwide in 1979, the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

In 1969, the national average per capita was $3,667; the 1979 figure of $8,773 represents an increase of 139.2 percent.

During the same period, prices -- as measured by the personal consumption price deflator -- went up 84.5 percent. Thus, real personal income has improved substantially over the period, most of it in the early part of the decade before inflation his so heavily.

Alaska was the highest-income state with $11,219, Nevada second at $10,521, Connecticut third at $10,129 and California fourth at $13,347. Maryland was tenth at $9,431 and Virginia, 23rd at $8,587.

The District of Columbia average in 1979 was $10,570. The figure is somewhat misleading since cities such as Washington, unlike the states as a whole, have no low-income rural areas to pull down the average.

In fact, compared to other cities, the D.C. average was not high: New York's Manhattan County, for example -- the Big Apple -- had an average almost $2,000 higher then D.C.'s.Most big cities have averages higher than their states.

The figures clearly show that while the Northeast and Midwest are still high-income and the South has the lowest by far, the South and West are growing at a much faster rate.

Personal income in New England over the decade rose, in dollar terms, 123 percent, in the Middle Atlantic area 122 percent and in the Great Lakes states 134 percent.

By contrast, personal income in the Southeast jumped over the decade 156 percent; in the Southwest, 168 percent and in the Rocky Mountain states, 156 percent.

As a result, differences among regions have narrowed, BEA says.

These figures show how the regions compared in 1979: (TABLE) Region(COLUMN)Per Capita(COLUMN)%National (COLUMN)Income(COLUMN)Income Far West(COLUMN)$9,901(COLUMN)113 Great Lakes(COLUMN)9,118(COLUMN)104 Mideast(COLUMN)9,112(COLUMN)104 NewEngland(COLUMN)8,910(COLUMN)102 Plains(COLUMN)8,628(COLUMN)98 Southwest(COLUMN)8,627(COLUMN)98 Rockies(COLUMN)8,357(COLUMN)95 Southeast(COLUMN)7,624(COLUMN)87(END TABLE)

In 1979 all but three of the lowest-income states were in the South, ranging from Kentucky -- 40th in the nation with $7,390 -- to Mississippi -- last at $6,178. The lowest non-Southern states were Vermont, 44th at $7,329; Utah, 45the at $7,197; and Maine, 47the at $7,039.