America’s Richest States
> Median household income: $57,287
> Population: 37,691,912 (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 11.7% (2nd highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 16.6% (18th highest)
California’s economy was hit especially hard by the housing downturn. Between the end of 2006 and the end of 2011, housing prices fell 46.7%, the fourth-largest decline in the country. Median income in the state has dropped steadily since a 2007 high of $65,005, while the poverty rate has climbed from 12.4% in 2007. Unemployment, meanwhile, has increased to 11.7% by 2011, second only to Nevada and well below the national rate of 8.9% that year. California’s cities are found at both ends of the income spectrum. Four of the 10 wealthiest cities in the country with populations of more than 100,000 are affluent suburbs of either San Francisco or Los Angeles. Meanwhile, California towns like Stockton, Victorville and Fresno, located inland, have among the highest poverty rates in the country.
> Median household income: $58,814
> Population: 907,135 (6th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (16th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.9% (11th lowest)
Delaware — the second smallest state by area and sixth least populous in the country — also happens to be one of the richest. Favorable corporate tax laws have led more than 60% of America’s Fortune 500 companies to incorporate in the state, increasing its tax revenue substantially. Almost 6% of the families in the state earned more than $200,000 last year, one of the highest proportions among all states. Meanwhile, fewer than 10% of the state’s residents were without health insurance in 2011, the eighth-lowest across the nation.
> Median household income: $61,821
> Population: 1,374,810 (11th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.7% (11th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12% (12th lowest)
Since reaching $70,401 in 2008, when it ranked fifth nationally, median income in Hawaii has declined every year, while the poverty and unemployment rates have gone up. From 2007 to 2011, the percentage of families living below the poverty line increased from 8% to 12%, while the unemployment rate rose from 2.7% to 6.7%. Despite all this, Hawaii remained relatively wealthy. The state’s poverty and unemployment rates for 2011 were well below the national benchmarks.
> Median household income: $61,882
> Population: 8,096,604 (12th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.2% (8th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.5% (8th lowest)
Virginia’s unemployment rate in 2011 was much better than the national rate of 8.9%. Overall, the state’s economy is quite healthy, an issue that will no doubt be in focus in the upcoming election. As a key swing state, the question is whether voters give credit for this to President Obama or Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. The northern region of the state, outside the Washington D.C. area, included the three wealthiest counties in the U.S. In the city of Arlington, located in the capital region, nearly 20% of families earned more than $200,000 annually, almost four times the national rate. However, the wealth does not spread out to the rural regions of the state where 3.7% of families earned less than $10,000 a year, a large percentage for a state that is considered wealthy.
6. New Hampshire
> Median household income: $62,647
> Population: 1,318,194 (9th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.4% (4th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 8.8% (the lowest)
New Hampshire is the first of three New England states among the nation’s 10 wealthiest. It is just one of eight states where median income exceeded $60,000 in 2011. In addition to a high median income, the state has proportionally few poor residents. The state’s poverty rate was just 8.8% last year, the lowest in the nation. Also,only 2.7% of families earned less than $10,000, which, along with Vermont, was the lower than any other state in the country. With only 5.4% of the New Hampshire’s workforce unemployed in 2011, most residents were able to earn enough to avoid poverty.