> Median household income: $62,859
> Population: 6,587,536 (14th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.4% (18th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.6% (9th lowest)
Massachusetts’s median income is well off its 2008 high of $68,055. Just under 10% of families in the state made more than $200,000 in 2011, the fourth-highest rate in the country. Massachusetts also had the lowest percentage of the population without health insurance in 2011, at a mere 4.3% — a whopping 10.8 percentage points below the national rate. The high rate of insured residents has much to do with a 2006 law signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney. The law provided near universal health care coverage to all Massachusetts citizens. Among cities with populations of 100,000 or more, three Massachusetts cities — Boston, Worcester and Cambridge — had the lowest proportion of residents without health insurance at 5.5% or less compared to a national rate of more than 15%.
> Median household income: $65,753
> Population: 3,580,709 (22nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.8% (19th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.9% (5th lowest)
Connecticut is one of only three states, along with Maryland and New Jersey, to have had a higher percentage of families earning more than $200,000 a year than families living below the poverty line. The western region of the state is home to a sizable population of hedge funds, and their employees, along with residents who work in New York’s financial district, helping drive up the state’s median income. Second only to New York, Connecticut had one of the largest gaps between the rich and the poor. At nearly 11%, the proportion of families living below the poverty line in Connecticut is the fifth lowest in the country. Meanwhile, 11.2% of families earned more than $200,000 in 2011, the highest proportion of all states.
3. New Jersey
> Median household income: $67,458
> Population: 8,821,155 (11th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.3% (14th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.4% (3rd lowest)
In New Jersey, 10.9% of families earned more than $200,000 last year and just 10.4% of residents lived below the poverty line, fewer than all states except for New Hampshire. Still, there were areas in the state where poverty was more widespread. In Newark, 31.6% of residents lived below the poverty line, while Paterson’s poverty rate was 28.9%. In contrast to the state as a whole, families in Newark were more than 16 times more likely to earn less than $10,000 than over $200,000 a year. Similarly, in Paterson, 16.2% of families earned under $10,000 per year, while just 1.4% earned more than $200,000 annually.
> Median household income: $67,825
> Population: 722,718 (4th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.6% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.5% (4th lowest)
In 2011, Alaska moved ahead of New Jersey to take the spot of the state with the second-highest median household income in the country. The state benefits from its vast natural resources, particularly oil, natural gas, and timber. Since 1957, the state has collected nearly $100 billion in taxes from oil and gas companies, and Alaska oil production has accounted for more than 13% of total U.S. production. Most residents reap the benefits from these payments. Income inequality in the state is the second-lowest in the country. Just 3% of Alaskan families earned less than $10,000 per year compared to the 5.1% nationwide. Meanwhile, despite the state’s high median income, just 5% of families earned more than $200,000 per year.
> Median household income: $70,004
> Population: 5,828,289 (19th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7% (15th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.1% (2nd lowest)
Maryland, which has had the highest median income of all states since 2006, was the only state in the country to have a median income above $70,000 in 2011. The state’s 10.1% was well below the national rate of 15.9%. Furthermore, a sizable portion of the population is earning well above the median income. Maryland is one of three states, along with New Jersey and Connecticut, where more than 10% of families earned more than $200,000 in 2011. Across the U.S., only 5.6% of families made more than $200,000 in 2011.
Michael B. Sauter, Samuel Weigley, Brian Zajac and Alexander E. M. Hess