The annual Income and Poverty Report, released by the U.S. Census Bureau each year, presents data collected in the Current Population Survey's yearly supplement. The report details data and trends on income, earnings, and poverty in the United States. According to this report, the median income in the United States in 2020 was $67,521, a 2.9 percent decrease from the previous year, when the median income was $69,560. This decrease was mainly due to Covid-19 restrictions and represented the first significant decline in median incomes since 2011. This decrease came just before a period of high inflation that has seen soaring prices for everything from houses to milk.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices rose 8.5 percent between March 2021 and March 2022, marking the highest inflation rate since 1981. According to Penn Wharton's Budget Model, that increase translated to an [additional $3,570 in expenses] for all working households. At the same time, incomes rose 4.5%, the sharpest rise seen since 1983. However, this increase has not been enough to keep pace with inflation, meaning households, on average, saw a decrease in their real income.
Incomes vary widely from state to state, with the highest-paid households found in the country's Northeast and West Coast regions. Several factors influence incomes at the state level, such as educational attainment, unemployment rate, and strength of the local economy. However, for those considering relocating to take advantage of higher salaries, the cost of living must be considered, as high incomes in an area tend to translate to higher prices.
States with the Highest Median Household Income
Maryland's median household income is $94,384, making it the highest in the nation. Maryland's poverty rate is among the lowest in the nation at 8.1%. Maryland also has an overall high level of educational attainment, with 91.1% of its residents having a high school diploma or higher. Maryland has the fourth-highest Bachelor's degree attainment rate, at 43.1%. However, the state also has a relatively high unemployment rate of 4.2%.
The nation's capital, Washington, D.C., has the second-highest median household income in the United States at $88,311. However, incomes are not evenly distributed, and the disparity between the district's white and black populations is staggering, with black residents earning less than half their white neighbors. Poverty rates in the district are among the nation's highest, tying for fifth at 14.6%. The unemployment rate of 5.8% is the highest in the country.
New Hampshire's median household income is $88,235, making it the third-highest in the United States. New Hampshire has the highest economic security of any state and boasts the lowest poverty rate in the country at 5.3%. Additionally, New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates among states at 2.3%. Educational attainment in the state is also high, with 94.1% of residents having a high school diploma and 40.2% having a bachelor's degree or higher. New Hampshire's top industries are manufacturing, healthcare, and tourism.
Massachusetts has the fourth-highest median household income at $86,725. Massachusetts is the most-educated state in the U.S., with the highest percentage of Bachelor's degree holders and graduate and professional degree holders. Dover has the highest median household income in Massachusetts, at over $250,000 annually. Despite this wealth, the state maintains relatively high poverty and unemployment rates.
New Jersey has the nation's fifth-highest median household income at $85,239. Educational attainment in the state is high, with 43.1% of residents holding a Bachelor's degree or higher. Unemployment in the state sits at 4.1%, and 7.6% of residents live at or below the poverty line.
States with the Lowest Median Household Income
Mississippi has the nation's lowest median household income at $44,966. The state's low incomes are paired with the nation's highest poverty rate. With 18.8% of residents living at or below the poverty level, nearly a fifth of the households in the state cannot meet their basic needs. Mississippi also has low levels of educational attainment. Only 86.8% of residents have a high school diploma or higher, the third-lowest rate in the nation. Less than a quarter of residents hold a Bachelor's degree.
Arkansas has the second-lowest median household income in the United States at $50,540. The poverty rate is 14.7%, the fourth-highest in the nation. Educational attainment levels are also low, with 24.9% of residents holding a bachelor's degree or higher. The key industries in Arkansas are agriculture, timber, and transportation.
New Mexico has the third-lowest median household income in the United States at $50,822 annually. New Mexico has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, at 5.3%. Fewer than a third of residents hold a higher degree.
Louisiana has the fourth-lowest median household income in the United States at $50,935. The state has the second-highest poverty rate, with 17.4% of its residents living at or below the poverty line. Levels of educational attainment are low, with 86.9% of residents holding a high school diploma and 27.2% holding a Bachelor's degree or higher. Louisiana's primary industries include oil and natural gas, commercial fishing, agriculture, and tourism.
West Virginia has the fifth-lowest median household income at $51,615. The state also has the nation's fifth-highest poverty rate at 14.6%. West Virginia also has the lowest level of higher education in the country, with 23.1% of residents having a bachelor's degree or higher.