In early March of 2022, gas prices reached record highs (not adjusted for inflation), topping the July 17, 2008 record of $4.11 per gallon of regular. With inflation on the rise, this extra financial burden is an unwelcome addition to the existing economic anxieties that many Americans are experiencing.
With President Biden’s announcement of the release of a million barrels of oil daily from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve comes the possibility that consumers may see some relief at the pump in the coming weeks. In addition, many states have proposed implementing “gas tax holidays” to reduce fuel prices. These plans include limiting fuel taxes that usually fund highway projects and public transit, as well as issuing cash rebates to households with registered vehicles and offering gas cards to low-income residents. (These are the states with the highest gas tax.)
The rising prices are certainly hitting some consumers harder than others. For those who rely on public transit, the hype about skyrocketing gas prices may mean very little, but for those who commute long distances by car or truck, the impact can be much greater. To determine how much of a driver’s monthly income is spent on gas in each state, 24/7Tempo consulted a ranking by the financial information site FinanceBuzz that used U.S. Department of Transportation data from January of 2022. The average number of vehicle miles traveled per person per state, as well as median annual incomes are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Gas prices are from American Automobile Association data collected in March 2022.
The average car driver in the U.S. spends 2.24% of their monthly income on gas, while the average pickup truck or SUV driver spends about 3.12%. The three states where drivers spend the largest percentage of their monthly income on gas are Alabama, Wyoming, and Mississippi, in descending order. While gas prices are relatively high in these three states, a larger factor in their ranking is travel miles. These are the only states in which people drive over 1,000 miles a month on average. (Here are the American cities with the least amount of time lost to traffic.)
Out of the 10 states where people spend the highest percentage of their income on gas, the majority are in the South, and all but one have relatively lower incomes and higher monthly mileage than average – the exception being Wyoming, which has the 21st highest income in addition to an average driving distance of 1,267 miles per month.
Of the 10 states where people spend the lowest percentage of their income on gas, all have relatively high incomes and relatively low monthly mileage. They are mostly in the Mid-Atlantic and New England, where states are generally much smaller and more urban – meaning that residents don’t need to drive nearly as many miles to get their basic needs met. One exception is Alaska, which has a huge land mass that is largely made up of uninhabited wilderness where residents rarely travel.
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