The national poverty and income figures released recently by the government paint a dark picture of the economy. The total number of households living below the poverty line is the highest since 1959, when records were first kept. The median income is the same level it was in 1996.
Despite the trend, some states are still on top. Using the latest Census data, 24/7 Wall St. has identified the ten states where median income is the highest in the country and poverty rates are low.
Nearly all the states with high median incomes and low poverty levels also have relatively healthy economies. Some states benefit from core industries that are performing well. Alaska, which relies on oil extraction, is doing well in part due to the relatively high price of oil. Utah’s major cities are growing as tech companies and research firms relocate there. Hawaii and Colorado serve as resort locations for the rich and retired.
Other states benefit from their proximity to other states. These states have large and affluent suburbs serving America’s large cities. While New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia and Maryland have their own industry, they are also home to commuters who work in Washington D.C. and New York City. Many of these suburbs are some of the richest in the country. And while these state shave major metropolitan areas of their own, the median income in these states is not weighed down by the low-income residents that live in these bigger cities, unlike New York and D.C.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed census data from all 50 states on median income, poverty rates, unemployment, and health insurance coverage. We then identified the ten states that have the highest median incomes along with the distribution of income in each state by city.
These are the ten richest states in the country.
> Median income: $59,125
> Poverty rate: 11.5% (18th lowest)
> Without health insurance: 7.5% (2nd lowest)
> Unemployment: 6.1% (10th lowest)
Hawaii has one of the healthiest economies in the country, bolstered by a large number of wealthy retirees and a robust tourism industry. As a result, the state’s median household income is just shy of $60,000. The state’s percentage of retirees means that more residents are covered by the federal government under medicare, and so there is smaller burden on the state. The Honolulu Statistical Area, which represents more than 70% of the state’s population, has a median income of more than $67,000 per household, well above the median metropolitan statistical area income of $50,000.
> Median income: $59,669
> Poverty rate: 11.9% (20th lowest)
> Without health insurance: 14.3% (23rd highest)
> Unemployment: 8.5% (22nd highest)
Colorado’s unemployment rate of 8.5% is not ideal — nor is its high number of people without health insurance. Most of Colorado consists of poor rural areas, like Costilla County, which has a median income of less than $25,000. However, the most populous areas, including Denver and Boulder, all have median incomes at or above the national level. Colorado’s extremely affluent cities, including Littleton, Aurora, and Aspen, have pushed it to the top tier of wealthy states. Douglas County, which is located near Colorado Springs, is the seventh-wealthiest county in the United States.
> Median income: $59,857
> Poverty rate: 9.1% (3rd lowest)
> Without health insurance: 13.2% (23rd highest)
> Unemployment: 7.5% (15th lowest)
Utah has the third-lowest poverty rate in the United States. While the Salt Lake City metropolitan region, and nearby Ogden and Provo, make up only a small part of the state, a huge percent of the state’s population lives in the area. All three are flourishing with young populations and diverse economies bolstered by technology, health care and several large universities. And because these cities represent most of the state’s population, the state’s median income is high. Davis County, which is part of the Ogden Metropolitan Statistical Area, is home to roughly 10% of the state’s population. It also has a median income of $66,220, the third-highest in the state.
> Median income: $60,923
> Poverty rate: 10.9% (14th lowest)
> Without health insurance: 5% (the lowest)
> Unemployment: 7.6% (16th lowest)
Massachusetts has vibrant education and health care industries, both of which contribute to the above-average incomes for its residents. The state has among the most well-distributed wealth in the country. Unlike Colorado, which is characterized by extremely poor rural areas and extremely wealthy suburbs, nearly every county in Massachusetts exceeds the national median income of $50,221. As evidence of the even distribution of wealth, the state’s wealthiest county, Norfolk, has a median household income of just under $80,000. Though high, it is not even in the top 25 wealthiest counties in the U.S.
> Median income: $61,544
> Poverty rate: 10.6% (12th lowest)
> Without health insurance: 12.9% (21st lowest)
> Unemployment: 6.1% (9th lowest)
In terms of wealth and poverty, Virginia can be divided into two regions. The vast majority of the state is rural, located to the south and west. Of its 135 counties, 83 have a median income well below the national average. However, the upper east portion of the state forms a large part of the D.C. suburbs, which are home to many of the nation’s wealthiest families. In fact, six of the counties near the border — Loudon, Falls Church City, Arlington, Prince William, Stafford and Fairfax — are all among the fifteen wealthiest counties in the entire country. The last of these, Fairfax, is also the most populous county in Virginia, representing nearly 40% of the state’s total population.
> Median income: $61,872
> Poverty rate: 10.8% (13th lowest)
> Without health insurance: 18.3% (10th highest)
> Unemployment: 7.7% (20th lowest)
Arguably no state has profited more from the surging value of natural resources like oil and timber than Alaska. Roughly 80% of the state’s GDP comes from oil extraction. State residents, a large number of whom work to harvest the state’s natural resources, have benefited from government subsidies to the oil industry, which have kept taxes low and income high.
> Median income: $64,596
> Poverty rate: 9.7% (6th lowest)
> Without health insurance: 12.6% (17th lowest)
> Unemployment: 7.2% (14th lowest)
Like Virginia, one of the primary reasons for Maryland’s wealth is its proximity to D.C. Many white-collar workers live in Maryland and commute to Washington. Four of the nation’s 25 highest-income counties are located within Maryland, including Howard County, which has a median household income of $101,003 — the fifth highest in the U.S. Maryland has become a major center for biotechnology. It is also home to Johns Hopkins University, which is the largest employer in Baltimore, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System.
3. New Jersey
> Median income: $65,173
> Poverty rate: 9.8% (7th lowest)
> Without health insurance: 14.4% (22nd highest)
> Unemployment: 9.5% (14th highest)
New Jersey’s median income is boosted immensely by its proximity to New York City. While the number of workers that commute to the city is high, the money earned is brought back to the Garden State. All of the state’s wealthiest counties are included in the New York Metropolitan Area, such as Hunterdon, Morris, and Somerset counties. The state also has the highest percentage of millionaire households in the country, according to the Associated Press.
> Median income: $65,958
> Poverty rate: 8.3% (2nd lowest)
> Without health insurance: 10.5% (9th lowest)
> Unemployment: 9.1% (19th highest)
Like New Jersey, Connecticut benefits from being neighbors with New York City. The state includes Fairfield County, one of the nation’s wealthiest counties. This county is close to Manhattan, and many companies that were once based in New York have since moved there. Several hedge funds are based in Fairfield, including Aladdin Capital, SAC Capital Advisors, and Bridgewater Associates, which is the world’s largest hedge fund. Many areas in the state have exceptionally low per capita incomes, however, such as the cities of Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.
1. New Hampshire
> Median income: $66,303
> Poverty rate: 7.1% (the lowest)
> Without health insurance: 10.1% (7th lowest)
> Unemployment: 5.2% (4th lowest)
New Hampshire’s status as the wealthiest overall state is the result of extremely low unemployment rate of 5.2% and the fact that it has the lowest poverty rate in the country. Like Massachusetts, the state has few wealthy areas, but it also does not have any major urban areas with high poverty rates. Hillsborough County, the most populous in the state, has a median household income of nearly $65,000. According to Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, the state benefits from a larger-than-average middle class, the result of businesses generally paying higher wages. New Hampshire also has no regional or state tax on personal income, and no sales tax.
Michael B. Sauter
Correction: Colorado’s cities of Littleton, Aurora, and Aspen, had been listed as “affluent resort cities.” Littleton and Aurora are more appropriately characterized as “affluent cities.”