The economy has slowly begun to recover over the past two years. The stock market is climbing and corporate profits have bounced back. Not to mention that last year, 2 million jobs were added, but through all of this the income of the average U.S. household has not fluctuated much, according to recently released data from the Census Bureau.
Only four U.S. states showed an increase in median annual household income from 2011 to 2012. Median household income is the amount of money earned by the household that falls exactly in the middle of pack.
The middle is a tough place to be, however, as the top 1 percent economically have recovered from the recession, but other income groups have not. According to the Census Bureau, those in bottom 80 percent of income distribution are generally making less than they had before the recession hit.
On a whole, some states have fared better than the rest, often helped by lower levels of poverty, lower unemployment and a highly educated workforce.
Click ahead to see which 10 states are the richest, by median household income.
—By Tony Pierce, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 26 Sept 2013
Median household income: $58,415
Although its median household income was in the top 10 of the country last year and its percentage of residents living in poverty was the 12th lowest, Moody's Analytics recently published a report that Delaware is the only state in the country still at risk of falling into an economic recession.
Moody's Analytics associate economist Brent Campbell told Reuters the tiny state "just lagged behind the rest of the U.S. It's not necessarily performing poorly."
The state's unemployment rate is in line with the national average and its size can both be a help and a hindrance to its financial success, another Moody's analyst said.
"One thing about the Delaware economy is it's so small, it can be affected by shifts in a single industry or a couple of industries," Steven Cochrane, managing director of Moody's told Delaware Online.
Median household income: $58,906
The people of the Land of 10,000 Lakes are doing well financially. Unemployment is relatively low and only 11.4 percent of residents are living in poverty.
But one interesting fact that came out of the recent census is that despite the extreme weather, Minneapolis is second only to Portland in regard to the number of workers who bike to their jobs.
"City policies and priorities seek to increase the number of trips made by bicycle or walking among city residents, workers and visitors," the city said in a statement regarding the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. "Walking and biking instead of driving has many benefits, including less greenhouse gas pollution, less traffic congestion, less maintenance costs for roadways and most importantly, a healthier population."
Median household income: $61,741
While most states' median household incomes were flat in 2012, Virgina's dropped by about 2 percent or $1,400. That may be due to the fact that about 10 percent of the state is employed by the federal government, which has been tightening budgets recently.
"Virginia is very vulnerable to cuts in federal spending because roughly a third of its economy is tied to the federal government," Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, told The Washington Post. "Whether it's the Budget Control Act of 2011 or the pullback from Iraq and Afghanistan or the reduction in federal contracting, we're going to feel it."
Missouri was the only state other than Virginia that saw a decline last year.
On the plus side, Virginia is still doing very well. The state's unemployment was low in 2012 and nearly 10 percent of households earned at least $200,000. Plus, Education Week ranked its schools fourth in the nation.
Median household income: $63,280
Things are good for the Live Free or Die state. Just 10 percent of the residents of New Hampshire live in poverty (that's the lowest in the nation,) and a little more than a tenth of the population are without health insurance.
But an odd fact emerged from the latest census report: The percentage of children living in poverty in New Hampshire jumped from 12 percent in 2011 to 15.6 percent last year. This was unusual since the state used to have the lowest level of childhood poverty.
"There [used to be] some state funding that went to unemployed parents. That was also eliminated and there were at least 250 cases that were closed under that, when that happened in July of 2011," Beth Mattingly, the director of research on vulnerable families at the University of New Hampshire, told NHPR.
Median household income: $65,339
Between 2005 and 2012 the median income in Massachusetts fluctuated only a few thousand dollars. From 2010 to 2011 the number dropped by $1,200, but last year it recovered almost that exact same amount.
With just 6.7 percent unemployment, Massachusetts fell far below the national average. Perhaps it's due in part to the fact that 48.1 percent of the state's residents between the ages 25 to 34 have at least a bachelor's degree. It is easier to find a job with one of those.
Indeed, Education Week ranked the schools in Massachusetts second-best in the nation. Only Maryland ranked higher.
Median household income: $66,259
For the past two years, Hawaii's economy has been growing. From 2011 to 2012 only Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and Hawaii showed an increase in real median household income. Hawaii's increase was over $3,000. At $66,259, it's about $15,000 above the U.S. average.
Just 11.6 percent of its residents are living below the poverty line; only seven other states have a better percentage.
Hawaii and Nevada were the only two states where retirees actually were living at 70 percent of their pre-retirement income, a recommended goal. But that isn't just because wealthy retirees move to the island paradise.
"Pensions are a common benefit of unionized jobs," Monica Jennings, a certified financial planner in Honolulu, told Interest.com. "We are one of the most highly unionized states, so there's a lot of pension income here."
But not everything is hula skirts and leis: it's expensive to live in Hawaii. The cost of living is 16 percent higher than the national average. The median cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment in Hawaii is $1,671 a month. That's a whopping 71 percent more than the U.S. average ($977.)
There is a rainbow, though. If you are only making $47,600 a year and living in Maui (or only making $54,850 and living in Oahu,) you could receive federal housing assistance. Mahalo.
Median household income: $67,276
In 1927, the wealthiest 1 percent of the country had 18.7 percent of the money, then the Great Depression hit and things normalized a bit and the middle class grew. That is until 2012, when the top 1 percent accounted for 19.3 percent of all household income.
According to a recent UC Berkeley study, from 2009 to 2012 incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans increased by 31.4 percent while the incomes for the rest rose by just 0.4 percent. New York had a higher gulf between the haves and the have-nots than Connecticut.
"On one hand, decades of industrial flight gutted large swaths of Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford, the Naugatuck River Valley and parts of this region's suburbs, leaving shells of factories, brownfields and a dearth of middle-class jobs," Tim Loh said recently in the Connecticut Post. "Meanwhile, there was an influx of hedge fund, investment banking and other high-paying finance jobs, which experienced ever increasing paychecks and bonuses both here and in New York City—while executive pay soared to record heights."
Speaking of records, the most expensive home in the country is a12-bedroom Greenwich mansion worth a cool $190 million. (But are they happy?)
The good news is the Nutmeg State leads the nation in percentage of households earning over $200,000. But the sad news is more than 3 million of its residents are unemployed.
Median household income: $67,712
When former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin chanted "drill, baby, drill," it was in part because many residents of the 49th state receive an oil dividend each year. In 2013, for example, nearly 593,000 Alaskans will receive a cut of the $576 million pool which will equal about $900 per person. In 2012 the payout was a bit higher, but nowhere near the record amount of $2,069 in 2008.
Alaska also boasts the second-lowest poverty rate in the United States. In fact its jobless percentage has been below the national rate for more than four years in a row.
Even though the median cost of a home in Anchorage in 2013 is now below $200,000, housing costs have increased there during the recession. "Between 2007 and 2012, Anchorage housing costs increased by 13.2 percent while the nation's rose 6.3 percent. In 2010, the nation's housing costs fell while Anchorage's increased by nearly 1 percent," Neil Fried, an economist for the state of Alaska wrote.
The good news is Alaska remains the only state that does not collect a state sales tax or impose an individual income tax. Others do one or the other, but not both.
Median household income: $69,667
Although at a glance it would appear that The Garden State is coming up roses—what with its near $70,000 median income and 11 percent of its households earning more than $200,000 in 2012—its middle class and poor are struggling. New Jersey was tied at fifth in 2012 in unemployment, more than a million residents were without health insurance and those relying on food stamps rose from 8 percent to 9.3 percent in just a year.
The amount of Jersey families living in poverty rose from 6.4 percent in 2008 to 8.2 percent last year, which was part of the impetus for the state government to approve raising the state's minimum wage. Gov. Chris Christie, however vetoed the bills that would have lifted the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour. Christie said it was too much, too soon.
"The sudden, significant minimum-wage increase in this bill, coupled with automatic raises each year tied to the United States consumer price index, will jeopardize the economic recovery we all seek," the governor argued when vetoing the $1.25 increase.
The state's $7.25 wage is the lowest allowed by the federal government.
Median household income: $71,122
Even though Maryland's median household income is the lowest that it's been in years, it was the only state in 2012 with a median income above $70,000. The Washington Post writes that the "growing security industry has put Maryland in relatively strong shape," noting that median household incomes in the Baltimore-Towson area were nearly $67,000 last year, making it the fourth-wealthiest metropolitan area in the United States.
A whopping 11 percent of Maryland households earned more than $200,000 in 2012—only two other states (and the nearby District of Columbia) had a higher percentage. Meanwhile, only 10.3 percent of its residents were below the poverty line. A feat only two other states bested.
Interesting factoid: Only Virginia boasts a higher percentage of college-educated Latino adults.
Not all of the trends are positive for the Old Line State. In 1990 only 12 percent of it population was obese. In 2011 that number had ballooned to 27 percent.