Median Household Income by State: A New Look at the Data
September 18, 2015
by Doug Short
The Census Bureau's annual household income reports for 2014 is now available. We've now compiled a few tables for the 50 states and DC based on the Current Population Survey, a joint undertaking of the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, which includes annual data from 1984 to 2014. The details are fascinating.
First, some context. The median US income in 2014 was $53,657, up from $22,415 in 1984 -- a 139.4% rise over the 30-year time frame. However, if we adjust for inflation chained in 2014 dollars, the 1984 median is $48,664, and the increase drops to 10.3%.
The Latest Data and Peak Income Years
The peak annual median income for the US, adjusted for inflation, was in 1999. The latest data point, fifteen years later -- after two recessions and two market crashes -- is down 7.2%. Here is an alphabetically sorted table showing the data for the 50 states and DC along with the US median data.
The alphabetical listing above makes it easy to find individual states, but for some additional insight, let's sort the data based on the decline from the peak year.
The median household incomes in 18 states plus DC have fared better than the US median as measured by the real percent declines from their respective peak years. A total of 32 states have suffered greater declines, with three states dropping more than 20%, down from eight in the 2013 data. Mississippi is the biggest loser, down a whopping 24.7% since its real median income peak in 2000.
Highest to Lowest Median Incomes
The next table sorts the data by the 2014 median income column. A quick look at this table shows the huge spread between the $76.2K median in Maryland and the $35.5K in Mississippi. Of course, the cost of living is a critical factor in comparisons of the raw data, a topic we'll address in a separate commentary.
For an idea of the geographical distribution of median incomes, here is a map that color codes the states based on a quintile breakdown.
For the sake of comparison, here is the comparable map for the year 1984, the earliest year for which the Current Population Study provides the state breakdown.
The 21st Century Winners and Losers
We'll conclude this commentary with a comparison of the rankings of the 50 states and DC in 2000 and in 2014. The key column is the one labeled Change. DC and 24 states have risen in the rankings, 2 are unchanged, and 24 have declined.
The many economic and political factors underlying the changes in rank are beyond our scope. We will point out, however, that the "Unchanged" category was the obvious goal for residents of Maryland, the top state for median income in 2000, but probably not for last place Nevada.
In a follow-up commentary, we'll take another look at median incomes by state after adjusting for the cost of living. As you can readily anticipate, the rankings shift dramatically.
The tables and maps above are based on state median income data from the American Community Survey and annual supplements available (here).
See also our updates on the national household income: