Special Report

America's Richest (and Poorest) States

Vermont farm house
Source: Thinkstock

20. Vermont
> Median household income: $56,990
> Population: 626,042 (2nd lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 3.7% (9th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.2% (4th lowest)

The typical Vermont household earns $56,990 a year, roughly $1,200 more than the typical American household. With a slightly higher than normal median household income, poverty is far less common in the Green Mountain State than it is across the country. Only 10.2% of Vermonters live below the poverty line, a smaller share than in all but three other states. Higher incomes and a lower poverty rate across the state is likely partially attributable to higher educational attainment rates. In Vermont, 36.9% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, higher than 30.6% of American adults with similar education.

Providence, Rhode Island
Source: Thinkstock

19. Rhode Island
> Median household income: $58,073
> Population: 1,056,298 (8th lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 6.0% (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.9% (25th lowest)

The typical Rhode Island household earns $58,073 a year compared to the $55,775 the typical American household earns. While incomes in Rhode Island tend to be slightly higher than they are across the country as a whole, state residents are more likely than the typical American to struggle in other ways. Economic problems the state faces include a high jobless rate and a high proportion of households relying on food stamps. Last year, 6.0% of workers were unemployed, the 10th highest rate nationally. Meanwhile, 16.2% of households rely on food stamps, the sixth highest rate.

Chicago, Illinois 4
Source: Thinkstock

18. Illinois
> Median household income: $59,588
> Population: 12,859,995 (5th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 5.9% (12th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.6% (23rd lowest)

High median incomes and a low poverty rate demonstrate how Illinois has one of the most equitable income distributions in the country. Statewide, homes were valued relatively low, at just $180,300, or more than $10,000 below the national benchmark of $194,500. Illinois’s relatively high education attainment rate partly accounts for high incomes in the area. More than 32.9% of adults had at least a bachelor’s degree last year, compared to 30.6% nationally.

Source: Thinkstock

17. Wyoming
> Median household income: $60,214
> Population: 586,107 (the lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 4.2% (15th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.1% (10th lowest)

Wyoming was one of only two states to report an uptick in unemployment in 2015 compared to 2014. Despite a worsening job market, incomes across the state rose significantly. The typical Wyoming household earns $60,214 a year, up from $57,080 in 2014.

Higher levels of education typically lead to higher incomes. Despite having a higher median household income than most states, a relatively small share of adults in Wyoming are college educated. Only 26.2% of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree, a considerably smaller share than the 30.6% share of American adults with similar education.

North Dakota, Farm, Tractor
Source: Thinkstock

16. North Dakota
> Median household income: $60,557
> Population: 756,927 (4th lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 2.7% (the lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.0% (9th lowest)

For the second year in a row, North Dakota’s 2.7% annual unemployment rate was the lowest in the country. The strong job market across the state contributes to higher incomes. The typical household in the state earns $60,557 a year, nearly $5,000 more than the typical American household. While incomes across the state are relatively high, they have not increased significantly from the previous year, likely at least in part due to persistent low oil prices.

With higher than average incomes and low unemployment, a small share of North Dakota residents depend on government assistance. Only 6.9% of households in the state receive food stamps, roughly half the comparable nationwide share.

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