Across the States, Some Modest Improvements, But Incomes are Still Below Where They Were at the Start of the Millenium

This morning the Census Bureau released its annual report on income and poverty within states, with data from the American Community Survey (ACS). This report follows the release earlier this week of national income and poverty statistics. Not surprisingly, the state report tells much the same story as the national data: for the typical U.S. family, incomes in most states were largely unchanged from where they were the year before—and still well below their levels from over a decade ago.

Between 2012 and 2013, median household income rose significantly in 14 states, while the remaining 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, had no significant change. The table below shows the states that had statistically significant year-over-year increases in median household income. The ACS data, which reflect a slightly different time period than the national income data gathered from the Current Population Survey, also showed a small, but significant increase in median income for the nation as a whole.

Table 1

States with significant year-over-year changes in median household income, 2013 to 2012

State 2012 2013 Change
United States $51,915 $52,250 0.6%
Alaska $68,577 $72,237 5.3%
California $59,184 $60,190 1.7%
Colorado $57,430 $58,823 2.4%
Florida $45,578 $46,036 1.0%
Kentucky $42,230 $43,399 2.8%
Michigan $47,447 $48,273 1.7%
Minnesota $59,747 $60,702 1.6%
Missouri $45,919 $46,931 2.2%
Ohio $47,454 $48,081 1.3%
Oklahoma $44,903 $45,690 1.8%
Tennessee $43,504 $44,297 1.8%
Texas $51,198 $51,704 1.0%
Utah $57,841 $59,770 3.3%
Wyoming $55,569 $58,752 5.7%

Source: Adapted from Noss, Amanda. 2014. Household Income: 2013. U.S. Census Bureau.

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While these modest improvements are welcome, the reality is that household incomes have yet to recover from the recession virtually anywhere. Only four states (Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota), plus the District of Columbia have regained their levels from 2007, and most states has not seen income growth in over a decade. The figure below shows median household incomes, by state, in 2000 and 2013. The overlapping bars show that in the vast majority of states, median incomes are still well below where at the start of the millennium. Only Maryland, Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia have managed to regain or surpass their median income levels from 2000.

As my colleagues Larry Mishel and Josh Bivens explain, “to get household incomes rising, we need to get real wages of the typical worker to rise, something we haven’t seen for more than a decade.” The policies that can help do this are not solely the province of federal lawmakers. A case in point: the only states that saw any wage growth over the past year where those that raised their state minimum wages.