The Income Spread

Visualizing Household Income Distributions in all 50 U.S. States

The median annual household income in the U.S is about $55,000 per year. This means roughly half of all U.S. households earn more than $55k each year and half earn less.

Related: I track my own income for free using Personal Capital.

While this is useful to know, what's even more interesting is the actual distribution of household incomes. How many households bring in between $40k and $50k? How many earn more than $100k? More than $200k?

To answer these questions, we can analyze some data from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey, which provides estimates on annual incomes for households across the U.S. The following chart shows the distribution of these incomes.

This gives us a more complete view of exactly how much households across the U.S earn each year. For example, we see that just over one-fourth of all households earn more than $100k per year and about 6% earn more than $200k. Keep in mind that we're talking about houshold incomes, not individual incomes. One household could consist of two income earners.

On the flip side, about one-fourth of all U.S. households earn less than $30k each year and one in six earn less than $20k. So, although $55k is the median, very few families actually bring home that much each year.

To get an even better idea of how incomes are distributed, check out the fifty charts below that show the household income distributions for each state. The dashed line in each chart indicates the median household income for that state.

These charts provide a more granular view of household incomes across the U.S. and can help us answer questions like which states have the highest percentage of $100k+ income households? Which states have the lowest?

Maryland 38.67%
New Jersey 38.44%
Massachusetts 37.70%
Alaska 36.49%
Connecticut 36.43%
Alabama 18.28%
Kentucky 17.95%
Arkansas 16.11%
West Virginia 15.91%
Mississippi 15.54%

It turns out that the states with the highest percentage of $100k+ income households are mostly concentrated in the northeast, with the exception of Alaska.The states with the lowest percentage of these households are mostly in the southeast.

It's pretty shocking to see that over 38 in 100 households in Maryland earn six-figure incomes or more per year while only 15 in 100 households in Mississippi do.

Another interesting question might be which states have the most households with incomes concentrated around the national median of $55k?

To answer this, we can look at what percentage of households in each state have an income within $20k of the median (i.e. household incomes in the range $35k - $75k) :

Idaho 35.87%
South Dakota 34.65%
Indiana 34.53%
Utah 34.21%
Montana 34.21%
New York 26.88%
Connecticut 26.72%
Maryland 26.54%
New Jersey 25.28%
Massachusetts 24.95%

Over one in three households in Idaho earn an income within $20k of the national median.

Towards the bottom of the list we see Massachusetts has only about one in four households earning incomes in this range. This isn't too surprising since we saw in the previous table that Massachusetts has the third-highest percentage of $100k+ households.

. . .

We've seen from this analysis that very few households in the U.S. actually earn an annual income equivalent to the national median of $55k and that incomes vary wildly from one state to the next.

Data for this analysis comes from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey. I used R to clean and munge the data and D3.js to create the visualizations.

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