Special Report

America's Richest and Poorest States

Detailed Findings and Methodology

The improvements in economic measures coincided with improvements in the labor market. The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 5.3% in 2015 to 4.9% in 2016. Median household income in the U.S. climbed from $56,277 to $57,617 over the same period. Some 30 states reported a statistically meaningful improvement in median household income in 2016, while median income in the remaining states remained effectively unchanged.

While economic conditions generally improved nationwide in 2016, some perennial patterns still hold true. For example, states with higher educational attainment rates tend to report higher incomes. Of the 10 wealthiest states, nine are home to a larger share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree than the 31.3% national share. Conversely, each of the 10 poorest states in the country is home to a smaller than typical share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Property values across states also tend to closely mirror income. Each of the 10 states with the highest median household incomes also has a higher median home value than the national median value of $205,000. Meanwhile, the 10 states with the lowest incomes have median home values below the U.S. median.

To identify the richest and poorest states with the highest and lowest median household income, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state data on income from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey (ACS). Median household income for all years is adjusted for inflation. Data on health insurance coverage, employment by industry, food stamp recipiency, poverty, and income inequality also came from the 2016 ACS. We also reviewed annual average unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2015 and 2016.

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