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Useful Stats: Per Capita Gross State Product, 1998-2018

May 16, 2019

Although North Dakota’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has declined since 2013, the energy boom in earlier years gave the state the fastest increase over the past 10- and 20-year periods, according to an SSTI analysis of recently updated state GDP data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Beyond North Dakota, the 10 years from 2008 to 2018 benefitted per capita GDP in states with a prominent knowledge economy, led by New York, California, Washington and Massachusetts. In general, per-capita gross product serves as a useful metric because it can show a state’s relative economic performance against its peers and over time. This article examines state GDP per capita over the past 20 years.*

During each year from 1998 to 2018, Washington, D.C., had, by far, the highest levels of GDP per capita, reaching $176,534 in 2018. States ranking the highest for GDP per capita in 2018 include New York ($73,531 per person), Massachusetts ($72,653), and Alaska ($70,936). The map below shows GDP per capita by state for 2018, as well as changes over the one-, five-, 10-, and 20-year periods.

From 1998 to 2018, GDP per capita increased the most in North Dakota (84 percent increase to $67,308 per person in 2018), California (51.9 percent increase to $67,698 per person in 2018) and, South Dakota (46.7 percent increase to $51,997 per person in 2018). After facing one of the country’s largest declines during the Great Recession, Nevada was the only state with less GDP per capita in 2018 than in 1998, decreasing by 5.9 percent to $48,189 in 2018. The chart below shows changes in state GDP per capita and state rankings in GDP per capita from 1998 to 2018. Although many of the highest-ranking states remained relatively stable over the 20-year period, the change in North Dakota is particularly striking, as can be seen in the chart.

Beyond North Dakota, which led all states with a 29.6 percent increase in per capita GDP from 2008 to 2018, the other states with the largest increases during that time were boosted by growth in the knowledge economy, such as New York (20.2 percent increase), California, (17.4 percent increase), Washington (15.4 percent increase) and Massachusetts (13.9 percent).

Recent declines in the energy industry meant that North Dakota (7.5 percent decline) and Alaska (4.5 percent decline) were the only states with less GDP per capita in 2018 than in 2013. States on the West Coast – California (16.7 percent), Washington (13.9 percent), and Oregon (13.8 percent) – experienced the fastest growth in GDP per capita over the past five-years.

During the most recent one-year period from 2017 to 2018, per capita GDP grew the most in Washington (4.2 percent), California (3.1 percent), and West Virginia (3.0 percent). During that period, real GDP increased the most in Washington (5.7 percent), Utah (4.3 percent), and Idaho (4.1 percent). Washington’s growth in real GDP was buoyed by the information sector, while the largest contributors to real GDP change in Utah and Idaho were professional, scientific, and technical services, and durable goods manufacturing, respectively. Additional data on changes to real GDP by state and the largest industry contributors to real GDP can be found in the chart below.

The table below describes high-level findings from the past 20-years of per capita gross state product. Additional data can be downloaded in this spreadsheet.

*The per capita state GDP data comes from the Bureau of Economic Analysis interactive tables and reflects per capita real GDP in chained 2012 dollars.


useful stats