Though often described as a democracy, the United States is actually a constitutional federal republic, a group of states (as well as territories and a federal district) operating independently from each other under a unifying framework that limits each state’s power while affording it considerable social and economic autonomy.
One way to compare states is to compare each one’s gross domestic product — the monetary value of finished goods and services produced within their borders, as well as the per capita value of this economic output. It’s not a perfect measure, but it is a common way to compare and rank economies.
To determine America’s largest and smallest economies, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed each state’s second quarter 2021 real gross domestic product per capita, expressed in 2012 dollars, using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The poverty rate for each state came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, and August unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (These are the states hit hardest by the COVID-19 recession.)
The U.S. has a total gross domestic product of about $19.4 trillion, by far the largest in the world. On a per capita basis, this breaks down to about $59,000 per person annually. By comparison, Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, has a per capita GDP of just $824, according to the most recent data from the World Bank.
But that $59,000 figure is a national average. Across the 50 states of this constitutional federal republic, per-capita GDP ranges from about $35,000 per person per year up to nearly $78,000. Total state GDP ranges from just under $30 billion to more than $2.8 trillion.
It’s important to note here that size matters. Larger states usually have larger economies, though this is not always the case. Alaska is the largest U.S. state by landmass but has the fifth-lowest GDP. Massachusetts is relatively small, but boasts the second-highest. (See where these and other states fall in the list of America’s richest and poorest states.)