Who Knew This Was the Wealthiest State in America?

March 15, 2019 by Hristina Byrnes

Source: eyegelb / Getty Images
California’s San José-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara agglomeration — Silicon Valley — is the richest metropolitan area in America, with San Francisco not far behind. In all, California is home to seven of the country’s 20 most affluent cities.

But the wealthiest state in America is all the way across the nation — a mid-Atlantic state roughly 1/13th the size of California, with almost 34 million fewer residents: Maryland.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, released last fall, the Old Line State (as George Washington is said to have dubbed Maryland) has the highest median household income of any state in the union: $80,776.

Why is the state so rich? The fact that Maryland surrounds Washington D.C. on three sides has a lot to do with it. One in 10 Maryland workers is employed in the public sector, many in lucrative federal government jobs. Add to that a government-related concentration of contractors, lobbyists, and computer engineers, as well as medical researchers and doctors at the National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins, and MedStar Health and other high-earning types, and you’ve got more than enough income to balance out the high poverty rates in other parts of the state (Baltimore’s is 23.1%, for instance).

College education reliably translates to higher incomes, too, and almost 40% of adults in Maryland have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, the third-highest rate in the country.

Super-rich suburbs also contribute to the overall financial health of the state. Chevy Chase, for instance, boasted a 2017 median household income of $173,333 — more than twice that of the already well-to-do state in general.