States Where the Middle Class Is Being Left Behind

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Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

6. South Dakota
> Middle class income growth 2011-2015: 5.0% (23rd lowest)
> Fifth quintile income growth: 9.8% (13th highest)
> Fifth quintile share of income: 48.2% (8th lowest)
> Middle class household income: $53,266 (23rd lowest)

South Dakota has one of the healthiest economies in the country. Only 2.8% of the state’s labor force is out of a job, the second lowest state unemployment rate in the country. In addition to a healthy job market, incomes are more evenly distributed in South Dakota than in most other states.

This may not remain the case for much longer, however. In the last five years, incomes among the middle 20% of earners have increased by only 5.0%, slightly slower than the 5.3% income growth among comparable households nationwide. Meanwhile, incomes among the wealthiest 20% of households in the state have gone up by 9.8%, higher than the comparable 8.4% average national income growth in the top quintile.

Yuma Arizona, USA - December 26, 2015: Giant Saguaro Cactus in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Yuma Arizona USA.
Source: Thinkstock

5. Arizona
> Middle class income growth 2011-2015: 4.9% (22nd lowest)
> Fifth quintile income growth: 9.2% (19th highest)
> Fifth quintile share of income: 50.5% (18th highest)
> Middle class household income: $51,612 (21st lowest)

Arizona is one of a handful of states where incomes are rising rapidly for the wealthiest 20%, while middle class household incomes remain relatively stagnant. Arizona’s middle class accounts for just 14.6% of state income, down from 14.9% in 2011. Meanwhile, the state’s top quintile of earners account for 50.5% of income compared to 49.5% half a decade ago.

Income growth disparity is one of several challenges the state faces. Poverty and joblessness are also major issues. Some 17.4% of Arizona residents live in poverty, well above the 14.7% national poverty rate. And, some 5.6% of the Arizona labor force is out of a job, slightly higher than the 4.9% national unemployment rate.

The Tappan Zee from the Castle, Rockland County, New York
Source: Thinkstock

4. New York
> Middle class income growth 2011-2015: 4.4% (20th lowest)
> Fifth quintile income growth: 8.7% (21st highest)
> Fifth quintile share of income: 54.2% (the highest)
> Middle class household income: $60,867 (15th highest)

Income inequality is more pronounced in New York than in any other state in the country. The top 20% of earners in the state account for 54.2% of all income annually, the largest share among all states. Meanwhile, the state’s middle class households earn the equivalent of only 13.5% of all incomes, the smallest share in the country. The disparity appears to be getting worse. Incomes among the state’s highest earning households have increased by 8.7% over the last five years, while middle class incomes have increased by a relatively slight 4.4%.

Incomes among the state’s top 5% of households have increased even more dramatically, jumping by 12.1% in the past half decade. The top 5% of households account for 26% of income in New York annually, more than in any other state.