Useful Stats: Median Household Income by State, 1984-2018

October 24, 2019

While rankings and annual indices are catnip for some looking to gain attention for their latest rankings, SSTI has always argued that it’s long-term trends that give the best sense of where a state or region stands. With recent release of income data, SSTI has examined the last 34 years data in median household income for each state. SSTI found that while median household income — adjusted to 2018 dollars — has risen in nearly every state and the U.S. since 1984 with an average annual rate of increase of 0.8 percent, the growth, not surprisingly, varies widely among individual states. For example, the District of Columbia experienced an 82 percent rise in median income over this 34-year period, with an average increase of just over 2 percent each year, while Alaska (although still ranked among the states with the highest median household income) experienced a reduction of nearly 8 percent over the same period.

Of particular interest are states that over the three decades moved from below the national median household income to above it. The District of Columbia passed the national median in 2006 and has experienced the greatest rate of growth since doing so. Iowa reached the U.S. median in 1999, and after fluctuating closely around the national median for several years, surpassed it in 2010 and has remained above it since. Similarly, Nebraska hit the national median in 2000 and closely followed it until 2010 when the state began increasing its distance above the U.S. level. North Dakota lagged more substantially behind the national median than the other states mentioned here, but quickly rose to meet the national median in 2009 and has since generally maintained that upward trajectory, save a dip from 2015 to 2017. Utah surpassed the national median in 1992 and has maintained its position since. This information is also shown in the image below.

In addition to the District of Columbia, states that have experienced the greatest growth include Oregon (40 percent total increase, 1.22 percent average annual increase), Tennessee (44.7 percent total increase, 1.22 percent average annual increase), Utah (44.8 percent total increase, 1.27 percent average annual increase), and Iowa (50 percent total increase, 1.31 percent average annual increase). Other states that have experienced notable gains include Pennsylvania (37.4 percent total), Arkansas (37.6 percent total), Washington (38 percent total), North Dakota (38.7 percent total), and Massachusetts (38.8 percent total). This information is summarized in the interactive map below.


Of the states mentioned above, Utah, Washington and Massachusetts have generally seen median incomes greater than that of the U.S. Additionally, California, Colorado, Minnesota, and Virginia have historically remained above the U.S. median. However, the states that have continuously maintained the greatest median incomes levels over the U.S. median are Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. This information is summarized in the image at the bottom of the page.

While still generally experiencing median incomes below the national median, several states have substantially narrowed the gap. These states include Montana, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. In Ohio, the median income closely mirrored the U.S. median from 1984 until the Great Recession when it dropped significantly, and has since recovered to its previous trend. Texas remained below the national median household income for 26 years, until 2012, when it surpassed the national level. It then fluctuated around the national median until 2016 and has since continued to decline.

An Excel file containing SSTI’s analysis of the source data is also attached.

useful stats, median incomeFile Summary_FRED_Median Household Income by State (1984-2018).xlsx