The Census Bureau brought perhaps the best news of the economic recovery Tuesday, when it announced that the median American income rose by 5.2%, the first increase since 2007 and the largest ever annual increase since it started tracking the statistic in 1967.
On Thursday, the Bureau released the results of a different annual survey—the American Community Survey—which collects information on a wide range of topics, including income. It also provides more localized data, showing us in which states incomes grew the fastest.
The top-ranking states are diverse geographically and in terms of which industries thrive locally, underscoring the broad nature of economic gains experienced by Americans last year. Though wealthy Americans saw their incomes rise faster than those further down the income ladder, every income segment saw its median income rise, and the median income in every state in the Union also rose, according to the survey. Check out the top 8 above.
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As you can see, these states hail from nearly every region in the country: New England, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast, and the Mountain West. They also feature different industries, from Montana’s agriculture and tourism, to Tennessee’s burgeoning healthcare and transportation sectors. Where income grew the fastest looked a lot different from where the median income is the absolute highest, which you can see below:
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These states are clustered in the United States’ traditional Northeastern economic powerhouse, plus Hawaii and Alaska, which benefit from its paradisiacal weather and oil wealth, respectively.
To be sure, last year’s rise in incomes comes after years in which the median income steadily fell, so even after 2015’s record year, the typical American’s income is still lower today than in 2007, according to Census Bureau data. That said, it is notable that this trend appears to now be reversing.
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What’s fascinating about the list overall is how it confounds the major political narratives that have been built up during the 2016 presidential race. We have been told that rust-belt states are struggling economically, and that’s why they represent an opportunity for Donald Trump—the outsider who will shake up Washington—to remake the electoral map. But rust-belt Wisconsin ranked as one of the states where income grew the fastest, while Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan were all in the middle of the pack.
There also isn’t any clear Red/Blue State divide here, with wealthy, blue New Jersey ranking last, right behind ruby-red Idaho. It’s enough to make one think that these narratives aren’t describing reality, and that this presidential race is much more about cultural and regional divides than economic misfortune. Check out the full list below
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