America’s Richest (and Poorest) States

Print Email

Seattle (King County), Washington

10. Washington
> Median household income: $64,129
> Population: 7,170,351 (13th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 5.7% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.2% (17th lowest)

At $64,129, the annual median household income in Washington is the 10th highest of all states. Washington’s relatively high educational attainment rate partly accounts for the higher incomes. Of adults in the state, 34.2% have a bachelor’s degree compared to 30.6% of adults nationwide. High incomes are likely driving up home values in the state. The typical Washington home is worth $284,000, one of the highest values nationwide.

Still, the state is not without some economic challenges. Last year, 5.7% of workers were unemployed, the 15th highest jobless rate nationally. In addition,14.5% of households rely on food stamps, a slightly larger share than the national 12.8% recipiency rate.

Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway One, California driving

9. California
> Median household income: $64,500
> Population: 39,144,818 (the highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 6.2% (7th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.3% (19th highest)

A typical California household earns $64,500 a year, far higher than the national median income of $55,775. The cost of living is especially high in California, however, with goods and services costing an average of 12.4% more than they do across the country. Relatively high incomes are likely driving up home values. The typical home in the state is worth $449,100, more than double the value of the typical American home.

Although California is home to some of the wealthiest individuals nationwide, 15.3% of state residents live in poverty. California is one of a handful of rich states with poverty rates above the national poverty rate of 14.7%. Indeed, income inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient is more pervasive in California than in all but three other states.

Lynchburg, Virginia, USA Skyline

8. Virginia
> Median household income: $66,262
> Population: 8,382,993 (12th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 4.4% (17th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.2% (11th lowest)

Higher educational levels typically lead to higher earning power. In Virginia, 37.0% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, a larger share than in all but five other states. Partially as a result, incomes are higher than average in the state. The state is home to a larger share of households earning at least $200,000 a year than the country. It is also home to a smaller share of households earning less than $10,000 a year than the country as a whole. With more higher earners and fewer low earners, a typical Virginia household earns about $10,500 more than the typical American household.

Higher incomes are also partially the result of a relatively healthy job market. The 2015 unemployment rate in the state was only 4.4%, nearly a full percentage point below the national unemployment rate.

New Hampshire

7. New Hampshire
> Median household income: $70,303
> Population: 1,330,608 (10th lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 3.4% (4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 8.2% (the lowest)

A typical New Hampshire household earns $73,303 a year, nearly $15,000 more than the typical American household. High median incomes are likely driving up home values in the state. The median New Hampshire home value of $244,500 is among the higher values nationwide.

New Hampshire’s relatively high education attainment rates partly accounts for the high incomes in the area. More than 35.7% of state adults have at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 30.6% of adults nationally. Similarly, while 87.1% of the country’s adults have graduated from high school, 93.1% of New Hampshire’s adults have, second most in the country.

Boston, Cambridge Skyline, Aerial view, Charles River and Beacon Hill

6. Massachusetts
> Median household income: $70,628
> Population: 6,794,422 (15th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 5.0% (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.5% (14th lowest)

Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states to report a median household of more than $70,000 annually. The state is home to some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, and fittingly boasts the highest college attainment rate of any state at 41.5%. By contrast, 30.1% of adults nationwide have at least a bachelor’s degree. While no guarantee, a college education helps open higher-paying job opportunities, and it is no surprise that some state households are very wealthy. One in every 10 households in the state earns $200,000 or more each year, the third highest such share of any state. High median incomes are likely driving up home values. The median home value of $352,100 in the state is among the highest nationwide.