This article was originally written by Doug Short. From 2016-2022, it was improved upon and updated by Jill Mislinski. Starting in January 2023, AP Charts pages will be maintained by Jennifer Nash at Advisor Perspectives/VettaFi.
The Census Bureau's annual household income report for 2020 was published in September. We've now compiled a few tables for the 50 states and DC based on the Current Population Survey, a joint undertaking of the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, which includes annual data from 1984 to 2020. The details are fascinating.
The median US income in 2020 was $67,521, up from $22,415 in 1984 — a 201% rise over the 36-year time frame. However, if we adjust for inflation chained in 2020 dollars, the 1984 median is $51,742, and the increase drops to 27%.
Peak Income Years
The peak annual median income for the US is off its 2019 peak. Here is an alphabetically sorted table showing the data for the 50 states and DC along with the US median data.
The alphabetical listing above makes it easy to find individual states, but for some additional insight, let's sort the data based on the decline from the peak year.
The median household incomes in 21 states have fared better than the US median as measured by the real percent declines from their respective peak years. A total of 29 states plus the District of Columbia have suffered greater declines, with 10 states dropping more than 10%. Vermont is the biggest loser, down 15.1% since its real median income peak in 2019.
Highest to Lowest Incomes
The next table sorts the data by the 2020 median income column. A quick look at this table shows the huge spread between the $94.38K median in Maryland and the $44.97K in Mississippi. Of course, the cost of living, which varies significantly across the country, is a critical factor in comparisons of the raw data, a topic we'll address in a separate commentary.
For an idea of the geographical/regional distribution of median incomes, here is a map that color-codes the states based on a quintile breakdown.
For the sake of comparison, here is the comparable map for the year 1984 in 2018 dollars, the earliest year for which the Current Population Study provides the state breakdown.
21st Century Winners and Losers
We'll conclude this commentary with a comparison of the rankings of the 50 states and DC in 2000 and in 2020. The key column is the one labeled Change. Twenty-seven states have risen in the rankings, and 21 and the District of Columbia have declined.
The many economic and political factors underlying the changes in rank are beyond our scope. In a follow-up commentary, we'll take another look at median incomes by state after adjusting for the cost of living. As you can readily anticipate, the rankings shift dramatically.
Read more updates by Jen Nash