Median household income in the United States declined for the second straight year in 2011, the Census Bureau reports -- falling more than 8% below its 2007 pre-recession peak.
While the trend is generally down, some states are faring far better than the average -- and, of course, some are faring far worse.
Interestingly, while most of the states with at the low end of the median income spectrum are suffering from weak economies, unemployment in and of itself was not a key factor. Only two states of the lowest 10 were also among the worst 10 for unemployment in 2011, and five of the worst-off states had unemployment rates lower than the national rate.
According to Brookings Institution fellow Elizabeth Kneebone, that disconnect isn't a surprise. "Earnings for middle and lower-wage workers have fallen or stagnated over time," Kneebone explained. "So you can have a situation where jobs are being created ... but the types of jobs matter. If those are jobs that pay low wages, even if you're working full time, that might not be enough to lift you above the poverty line."
These are America's richest states and poorest states.
To identify the states with the highest and lowest median household income, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state data on income, poverty, and health insurance from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey (ACS). Based on Census treatment, median household income for all years is adjusted for inflation. We also reviewed unemployment data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and additional 2011 ACS data on individual cities. Because the cost of living has a direct bearing income, 24/7 Wall St. considered cost of living data for Q4 2011 from the Council for Community and Economic Research.
--- By Michael B. Sauter, Samuel Weigley, Brian Zajac and Alexander E. M. Hess
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