Massachusetts’ median income is well off its 2008 high of $68,055. Just under 10% of families in the state made more than $200,000 in 2011, the fourth-highest rate in the country. Massachusetts also had the lowest percentage of the population without health insurance in 2011, at a mere 4.3% — a whopping 10.8 percentage points below the national rate. The high rate of insured residents has much to do with a 2006 law signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney. The law provided near universal health care coverage to all Massachusetts citizens. Among cities with populations of 100,000 or more, three Massachusetts cities — Boston, Worcester and Cambridge — had the lowest proportion of residents without health insurance at 5.5% or less, compared to a national rate of more than 15%.
Connecticut is one of only three states, along with Maryland and New Jersey, to have had a higher percentage of families earning more than $200,000 a year than families living below the poverty line. The western region of the state is home to a sizable population of hedge funds, and their employees, along with residents who work in New York’s financial district, helping drive up the state’s median income. Second only to New York, Connecticut had one of the largest gaps between the rich and poor. At nearly 11%, the proportion of families living below the poverty line in Connecticut is the fifth lowest in the country. Meanwhile, 11.2% of families earned more than $200,000 in 2011, the highest proportion of all states.
In New Jersey, 10.9% of families earned more than $200,000 last year and just 10.4% of residents lived below the poverty line, fewer than all states except for New Hampshire. Still, there were areas in the state where poverty was more widespread. In Newark, 31.6% of residents lived below the poverty line, while Paterson’s poverty rate was 28.9%. In contrast to the state as a whole, families in Newark were more than 16 times more likely to earn less than $10,000 than over $200,000 a year. Similarly, in Paterson, 16.2% of families earned under $10,000 per year, while just 1.4% earned more than $200,000 annually.
In 2011, Alaska moved ahead of New Jersey to take the spot of the state with the second-highest median household income in the country. The state benefits from its vast natural resources, particularly oil, natural gas and timber. Since 1957, the state has collected nearly $100 billion in taxes from oil and gas companies, and Alaska oil production has accounted for more than 13% of total U.S. production. Most residents reap the benefits from these payments. Income inequality in the state is the second-lowest in the country. Just 3% of Alaskan families earned less than $10,000 per year compared to 5.1% nationwide. Meanwhile, despite the state’s high median income, just 5% of families earned more than $200,000 per year.
Maryland, which has had the highest median income of all states since 2006, was the only state in the country to have a median income above $70,000 in 2011. The state’s 10.1% was well below the national rate of 15.9%. Furthermore, a sizable portion of the population is earning well above the median income. Maryland is one of three states, along with New Jersey and Connecticut, where more than 10% of families earned more than $200,000 in 2011. Across the U.S., only 5.6% of families made more than $200,000 in 2011.
In 2011, Alabama’s median income was more than $9,000 below the nation’s median income, while 6.4% of families lived off less than $10,000 a year — higher than in all but five states. For the second year in a row, Alabama’s poverty rate was 19%, remaining more than three percentage points above the national rate. Despite struggling with poverty, only 14.3% of Alabamians did not have health insurance last year — slightly better than the national figure of 15.1%. It is likely that Alabama’s cheap health care - the least expensive in the country for the fourth quarter of 2011 – resulted in more insured residents. According to Gallup, since August of 2011 almost 23% of state residents reported not having enough money to buy food at least once.
Kentucky’s unemployment rate of 9.5%, while not as high as states such as South Carolina and Mississippi, was well above the national rate of 8.9%. The employment rate will likely stay high in the near future as mining, a major industry in Kentucky, has declined in the past year due to a drop in natural gas prices. Severe poverty plagues the state, as 6.9% of families earned less than $10,000 in 2011, the fourth lowest of all states. Meanwhile, a mere 3% of Kentucky families earned more than $200,000 a year, the seventh-lowest rate in the country. Fortunately for those with lower incomes, Kentucky has the fourth-lowest cost of living in the U.S., including the second-lowest cost of living for groceries.
While the national median household income fell to $50,502 in 2011, Arkansas was just one of three states where median income remained below $40,000 for the year. Despite an unemployment rate of 8% in 2011, nearly one percentage point below the national rate, the 19.5% of families lived below the poverty line, one of the nation’s highest rates. Poverty was slightly less of a problem in Little Rock, the state’s largest city, which had a 16.4% poverty rate and a median income of $40,976. Despite having the third-lowest cost of health care nationwide at the end of 2011, 17.1% of residents lived without health insurance last year – well above the national figure of 15.1%.
West Virginia’s median income of $38,482 was well off the median income of $40,093 in 2007. The state’s unemployment rate of 8% was well below the 8.9% nationwide. But, like Kentucky, a softening mining sector in 2012 could weaken West Virginia’s economy. The proportion of West Virginia residents without health insurance grew 4.9%, the third-largest increase in the U.S. Fortunately for cash-strapped residents, although the state’s overall cost of living is in the middle of the pack compared to all other states, the cost of groceries is the third lowest in the country.
The median income of the poorest state in the country, Mississippi, was just slightly less than 53% of the median income of Maryland, the richest state. Mississippi’s median income – like many states – fell each year between 2008 and 2011, dropping $2,677 during that time. Not only did Mississippi have the highest poverty rate in the country, but 7.8% of Mississippi families made less than $10,000 in 2011, which was also the lowest rate in the country. While unemployment declined in most states between 2010 and 2011, Mississippi’s actually rose 0.2 percentage points, one of only two states to see an increase in unemployment.