The Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) allows us to rank the wealthiest U.S. states according to median household income. The results are surprising, with states like New York falling shy of the top 10 while Alaska makes the top 10.
- Median household income: $70,979 (2017)
- Population: 7,405,743 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 4.6% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 11% (2017)
Washington's median home value of $339,000 is the fifth-highest in the country and more than $120,000 above the U.S. median. However, despite its high median income and low poverty rate, Washington has one of the higher unemployment rates in the country at 4.6% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. unemployment rate is 3.7% as of July 2019.
- Median household income: $71,535 (2017)
- Population: 8,470,020 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 2.8% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 10.6% (2017)
Virginia adults are among the most likely in the country to hold at least a bachelor's degree, making them more qualified for high paying jobs and increasing their odds of having a lucrative career. Virginia's unemployment rate puts it below the national average, and the state has a large number of government employees and contractors, many of whom commute to Washington D.C. from the northern part of the state.
The U.S. Department of Defense is the state's largest single employer. Government jobs in northern Virginia, relating to information technology, are among the highest paid jobs in the state.
- Median household income: $71,805 (2017)
- Population: 39,536,653 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 4.1% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 13.3% (2017)
Thanks, in part, to its booming tech economy, California is one of the wealthiest states in the country. Much of California’s reputation is also built on the entertainment industry, which is centered around Los Angeles. The abundance of high paying jobs drives up the median household income in the Golden State, yet the state’s unemployment and poverty rates are higher than most.
- Median household income: $73,181 (2017)
- Population: 739,795 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 6.2% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 11.1% (2017)
The oil dividends that all Alaskans receive adds a nice boost to average household income (in 2015, it amounted to $2,072 per person), which is one of the highest in the nation. Understandably, tourism and fishing help drive the economy. However, several key economic indicators paint a not-so-great picture. The state's $73,181 median is $3,259 less than it was the previous year. No other state experienced a drop above $1,300.
Also, Alaska, unfortunately, has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.
6. New Hampshire
- Median household income: $73,381 (2017)
- Population: 1,342,795 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 2.5% (July 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 7.7% (2017)
Economic security in New Hampshire is among the highest of any state. Of all the states on our list, New Hampshire has the lowest percentage of people living below the poverty level and a very low unemployment rate. Manufacturing, healthcare, and tourism are a few of the Granite State's leading industries.
- Median household income: $74,168 (2017)
- Population: 3,588,184 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 3.6% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 9.6% (2017)
Connecticut is one of just a handful of states with a poverty rate under 10%, at 9.6%. Connecticut workers are more likely than those in almost all other states to work in high paying fields like information and finance.
As such, the state has the second-highest percentage of households with investable assets over a million dollars. Its unemployment rate closely mirrors the national average, which might be attributed to the unemployed being less likely to work in lower-paying fields, such as agriculture and transportation.
- Median household income: $77,385 (2017)
- Population: 6,859,819 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 2.9% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 10.5% (2017)
According to the Census Bureau, Massachusetts has the highest percentage of residents with bachelor's degrees. Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree tend to be qualified for a wider range of careers—many of which pay higher salaries. Along with its universities (among the world's best), financial services, technology, and medicine are strong engines of the state's economy.
- Median household income: $77,765 (2017)
- Population: 1,427,538 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 2.7% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 9.5% (2017)
Hawaii households are among the least likely to be impoverished and workers are the least likely to be unemployed. Barack Obama's home state can be rather expensive to live in, but Hawaii's booming tourist economy has lifted the median household income.
Defense is another major industry, with 75,000 U.S. Department of Defense personnel living on the islands. Some 17.3% of workers in the state are involved in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food service industries as Hawaii is a popular vacation spot.
Overall, the Hawaiian economy functions much differently than the other 49 states. Shipping goods to Hawaii is quite expensive, which makes prices higher for consumers. On the other hand, Hawaii's median home value is by far the highest in the country at $617,4000—more than $10,000 higher than the next highest state.
2. New Jersey
- Median household income: $80,088 (2017)
- Population: 9,005,644 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 3.2% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 10% (2017)
Across the river from New York City, New Jersey has the highest population density in the country. Biopharmaceuticals, transportation, and manufacturing are leading industries here, and more than a few millionaires commute to Wall Street. A New Jersey household has a better chance to be wealthy than in any other state, with 13% of New Jersey households earning north of $200,000.
Meanwhile, just one in 10 people in the state live below the poverty line. Nearly 40% of New Jersey adults hold at least a bachelor's degree, making them qualified to work in the high paying, specialized industries located in the state.
- Median household income: $80,776 (2017)
- Population: 6,052,177 (2017)
- Unemployment rate: 3.8% (Aug. 2019)
- Persons below poverty level: 9.3% (2017)
Maryland is tops. The state benefits from its proximity to the centers of power in Washington. It borders Washington D.C. on three sides, so it should come as no surprise that more than one in 10 Maryland workers works in the public administration sector, which includes many lucrative federal government jobs. The National Security Agency (NSA) is the largest employer of mathematicians in the U.S., and it stands among the top places to work in Maryland.