Special Report

States Where the Middle Class Is Dying

7. Idaho
> Middle income growth 2009-2013: -4.7%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2009-2013: 1.0%
> Fifth quintile share of income: 47.8%
> Middle class household income: $46,933 (13th lowest)

The wealthiest fifth of Idaho households earned $144,885 on average in 2013. While this was among the lowest incomes in that cohort, it was also a 1% increase from 2009, more than double the comparable nationwide growth rate. Average income among Idaho’s middle earners, on the other hand, fell by 4.7% over that time to less than $47,000. This was also one of the lower average incomes in the country. While the income gap is worsening in Idaho, income is still more evenly distributed compared to most of the nation. Idaho had nearly the lowest Gini coefficient in 2013. Less than 5% of Idaho’s labor force participated in a labor union in 2013, less than half the national figure.

6. Louisiana
> Middle income growth 2009-2013: -4.9%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2009-2013: 1.0%
> Fifth quintile share of income: 51.9%
> Middle class household income: $44,442 (8th lowest)

The widening income gap in Louisiana does not bode well for the state’s poorest residents. The poorest 20% of Louisiana households earned $8,851 on average in 2013, lower than in every state except for Mississippi and a substantial decrease from 2009. In addition, the combined incomes among the poorest fifth of households accounted for 2.8% of the state’s total income in 2013, down from 3.2% in 2009, one of the largest drops nationwide. Meanwhile, the wealthiest 20% of Louisiana households held nearly 52% of the state’s income in 2013, higher than the comparable national figure, and also a substantial increase from 2009. While the widening income gaps in the states where the middle class is suffering did not always mean a higher poverty rate among residents, in Louisiana the poverty rate increased more than in most states over that time. By 2013, nearly one in five Louisiana residents lived in poverty, one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

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5. Washington
> Middle income growth 2009-2013: -5.0%
> Fifth quintile income growth 2009-2013: 1.3%
> Fifth quintile share of income: 49.2%
> Middle class household income: $58,752 (13th highest)

The average income among middle class households in Washington fell faster than in most states between 2009 and 2013. Incomes among the wealthiest 20% of households in the state, however, grew faster than comparable figures across the nation. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Joe Valenti, an analyst with the Center for American Progress, argued that Washington’s tax climate may present an additional burden to those suffering from income stagnation. Without an an income tax, the state relies more heavily on its sales tax to generate revenue, for example. A higher sales tax will often disproportionately affect lower-income residents who not only tend to consume more as a percentage of their income, but also may have less opportunities to drive across state lines to take advantage of a lower tax rate. Nearly 20% of Washington’s workforce was part of a union in 2013, one of the highest rates. Yet, this did not appear to have an effect on the distribution of income in Washington.