Special Report

America’s Richest and Poorest States

Median household income in the United States hit an all time high in 2018, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The recently-released data shows that the typical American household now has an income of $61,937 a year, up slightly from $61,423 in 2017. Over the same period, the poverty rate nationwide also improved, from 13.4% to 13.1%.

The slight uptick in median household income at the national level does not paint a complete picture, however. Only 14 states reported a statistically significant increase in median household income — and in one state, Maine, the median household income actually declined by a statistically significant amount. For context, there was a statistically significant increase in median household income in nearly half of all states between 2016 and 2017. 

Income levels vary widely across the country. In some states, the majority of households live on less than $50,000 a year. Meanwhile, in a number of other states, most households earn at least $75,000 annually. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed recently released 2018 ACS median household income data identify America’s richest and poorest states. The share of adults 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree and the share of the population living below the poverty line also came from the 2018 ACS. We also reviewed annual average unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018 and 2017.

The national increase in median household income is likely partially attributable to the strengthening job market. Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell from 4.4% in 2017 to 3.9% in 2018. The average annual unemployment rate climbed in only three states — Oregon, West Virginia, and Colorado — between 2017 and 2018. While lower-income states do not necessarily have weaker job markets than many of the wealthier states, the availability of jobs can have a considerable impact on median income in a given area. Here is a look at the states where it is hardest to find full-time work.

Educational attainment is one of the strongest predictors of income, as workers with more education are more likely to have high-paying, secure jobs. Nationwide, the typical college graduate earns $54,628 a year, more than double the median earnings of $24,530 for those who did not graduate high school. 

Not surprisingly, the states with the highest median incomes also tend to be home to a larger share of college-educated adults than the nationwide share of 32.6% — and many of the wealthiest states are also among the best educated. Here is a full list of America’s most and least educated states.

Click here to see America’s richest and poorest states

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