> Median household income: $58,328
> Population: 38,041,430 (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.5% (2nd highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.0% (18th highest)
In California, as well as in New York and Colorado, more people work in the information industry — which tends to have high-skill, high-paying jobs — than in any other industry. Last year, California was among the states with the highest percentage of households earning incomes exceeding $200,000. In spite of these signs of wealth, the unemployment rate in California was dismal — second-worst in the country — even though it improved significantly in 2012.
> Median household income: $57,573
> Population: 6,897,012 (13th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.2% (tied-17th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.5% (19th lowest)
As in much of the nation, food stamp usage rose in Washington last year, from 14.5% of residents in 2011 to 15.1% in 2012. Echoing another nationwide trend, poverty has been on the rise in Washington in recent years. The state’s poverty rate rose from 11.4% in 2008 to 13.5% in 2012. Similarly, median household income dropped by about $4,000 in that time. The state remains home to one of the nation’s larger concentrations of workers employed in professional, scientific and management positions, which usually pay well. Among the large companies with presences in or around Seattle are Amazon.com, Boeing, and Microsoft.
> Median household income: $57,049
> Population: 2,855,287 (17th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12.8% (15th lowest)
Utah had the 10th-lowest poverty rate in the country in 2012. The gap between the rich and poor was also among the smallest in the country. In the Salt Lake City area, more children have upward economic mobility than in any other large urban area. Utah’s has one of the healthiest labor markets in the country, with the the state’s unemployment rate falling from 14th lowest in the U.S. in 2011 to 10th lowest in 2012.
> Median household income: $56,765
> Population: 5,187,582 (22nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.0% (tied-19th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.7% (tied-20th lowest)
Colorado had the third-greatest concentration of professional, scientific and management workers in 2012. Only Virginia and Maryland had a higher concentration. The large number of these workers, who are generally well paid, is likely contributing to the state’s relatively high median income. An estimated 6.6% of households earned over $200,000 last year, more than the large majority of states. Sadly, Colorado has recently been ravaged by flooding, which has threatened to cut into the state’s multi-billion dollar tourist economy. As of last year, 11% of workers were employed in recreation, accommodation, food services and similar jobs, many of which exist to support tourism.
15. New York
> Median household income: $56,448
> Population: 19,570,261 (3rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.5% (13th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 15.9% (tied-22nd highest)
New York’s median income in 2012 was more than $5,000 higher than the national income, yet its poverty rate was the same as the nationwide rate of 15.9%. Further, 15.5% of New Yorkers received food stamps in 2012, well above the national rate of 13.6%. The state had the most extreme income inequality in the country. This was particularly the case in the state’s namesake city. According to an analysis published by the Bloomberg administration in April, which used New York City’s own measurements of poverty, an estimated 46% of city residents lived in poverty or near poverty in 2011.
> Median household income: $55,137
> Population: 12,875,255 (5th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.9% (10th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 14.7% (tied-24th lowest)
The percentage of Illinois residents relying on food stamps was below the national rate in 2012. SImilarly, the poverty rate in the state was slightly less than nationwide. Despite these signs of prosperity, Illinois’ unemployment rate of 8.9% was among the 10 worst in the country last year.
> Median household income: $54,901
> Population: 576,412 (the lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.4% (7th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12.6% (13th lowest)
Wyoming is the nation’s least populous state, with roughly 576,000 residents in 2012. Despite its small size, the state is among the nation’s leading energy producers. Wyoming produced 40% of the nation’s coal in 2011, the most of any other state by far. It also produced nearly 10% of the nation’s natural gas, more than all but two other states, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Due in part to the booming energy economy, the state’s median household income, at close to $55,000, is well above the U.S. median. Just 7% of Wyoming residents received food stamps in 2012, the lowest of any state.
18. Rhode Island
> Median household income: $54,554
> Population: 1,050,292 (8th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.4% (3rd highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.7% (tied-20th lowest)
The unemployment rate in Rhode Island was well above the national rate in 2011 and 2012, ranking third highest in the country both years. Compared with other states in New England, Rhode Island had the highest percentage of households living on less than $10,000 a year, although it was lower than the national rate. Over the last few years, low-income families have been relying more on government programs. The percentage of households depending on food stamps nearly doubled between 2008 and 2012 — rising from 7.9% to 15.4%.
19. North Dakota
> Median household income: $53,585
> Population: 699,628 (3rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.1% (the lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.2% (6th lowest)
North Dakota has been by far the nation’s fastest growing state in recent years. In both 2010 and 2011, its GDP rose by more than 7%, while in 2012, it grew by more than 13%, according to estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Income has also consistently increased in recent years, with median annual household income jumping by nearly $5,000 from 2008 to 2012. Much of this is due to the development of oil exploration and production operations in the Bakken shale region. Overall, North Dakota’s crude oil production increased fivefold between 2007 and 2012, according to the EIA.