Household income has fallen since 2019 despite growth in workers’ earnings

On Thursday, the US Census Bureau released 2021 household income and household earnings data for states from the American Community Survey (ACS). National averages mask the wide disparities experienced by workers and families across states while state-level data can help us understand how policy choices affect income and earnings. According to the ACS, the inflation-adjusted median household income in 2021 was $69,717 nationally with wide variations between states. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia had median household incomes above the national average, with the highest being Maryland ($90,203), the District of Columbia ($90,088), and Massachusetts ($89,645). However, median household incomes in 31 states were below the national average and the lowest were in Mississippi ($48,716), West Virginia ($51,248) and Louisiana ($42,087).

The average national income for 2021 was only 0.1% higher than the inflation-adjusted 2019 median income before the pandemic. Twenty states experienced greater growth in their median household income than the national growth rate of 0.1%, although most were still relatively small. Only six states had average household income growth rates from 2019 to 2021 of 3% or more: Vermont, New Hampshire, Arizona, South Dakota, Montana and Maine.

26 states and the District of Columbia had household incomes in 2021 that were lower than their 2019 inflation-adjusted incomes. The District of Columbia experienced the largest declines overall while the largest declines were for states in Wyoming, Delaware, and Louisiana. The decline in median real family income is particularly worrisome in states where family income is already low. For example, of the five states with the lowest incomes, three states experienced declines in real household income: West Virginia, Louisiana, and Alabama. These states also lack strong safety nets to support workers and families struggling to make ends meet. Economic insecurity among families in these states and across the country is also likely to be exacerbated by the reversal of expanded programs during the pandemic, including economic stimulus checks, an enhanced unemployment insurance system (UI) and cuts to family support programs such as the child tax credit.

The largest component of household income for most people is their income (the income they receive through work). Nationally, the median income for workers 16 and older was $40,260, a 4% increase from 2019. Much like household income, 18 states and the District of Columbia have above-average earnings. The national average while the average income of 32 states is lower than the national average. The District of Columbia had the highest median income at $72,457. The states with the highest median incomes were Massachusetts ($50,683), Maryland ($50,548), and New Jersey ($50,021). The states with the lowest average earnings are Mississippi ($32,242), West Virginia ($33,739) and Arkansas ($33,869). Southern states are generally over-represented among the lowest-income states – 7 of the 10 lowest-income states are in the south. This largely reflects policies put in place by state and local lawmakers that continue to keep wages low, including opposition to raising minimum wages, right-to-work laws, and the use of safeguards to prevent localities from raising wages and improving working conditions and benefits.

The growth in incomes nationally and in most states has outpaced the growth of household income. As noted, earnings have increased 4% since 2019 nationwide and only 6 states have seen inflation-adjusted earnings decline. Twenty-nine states had below-national earnings growth with the least developed states being Illinois, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. Twenty-two states had more profit growth than the national level, with the District of Columbia, Arizona, and Vermont showing the largest growth.

Support for workers and families during the pandemic has been vital and policy makers should not let vital safety net programs expire because many families still need these resources. Policy makers must support policies that raise workers’ wages and provide them with basic benefits and protections.

While most states saw earnings growth during the recovery, household incomes fell in more than half of the states: Median Household Income and Earnings by State, 2019-2021

condition 2019 median household income 2021 median household income 2019 to 2021 income change Average Earnings 2019 2021 average earnings 2019 to 2021% profit change
Alabama $54,826 53,913 dollars -1.7% $33872 $34925 3.1%
Alaska $79,973 $77,845 -2.7% $42744 $41962 -1.8%
Arizona $65,763 $69,056 5.0% $36,453 $39,023 7.1%
Arkansas 51,877 dollars $52.528 1.3% $32,660 $33869 3.7%
California $85,247 $84,907 -0.4% $41,912 $41,891 -0.1%
Colorado $81,736 $82,254 0.6% $43,075 $44,818 4.0%
Connecticut $83,544 $83,771 0.3% $44,718 $45,511 1.8%
Delaware $74,370 $71,091 -4.4% $39667 $41,374 4.3%
Washington DC $97,780 $90,088 -7.9% $65,663 $72,457 10.3%
Florida $62,766 63,062 dollars 0.5% $33781 $35997 6.6%
Georgia $65,684 $66,559 1.3% $37112 $37512 1.1%
Hawaii $88,068 $84,857 -3.6% $42,645 $40,595 -4.8%
Idaho $64,644 $66,474 2.8% $32970 $34941 6.0%
Illinois $73,322 $72,205 -1.5% $41,389 41,504 dollars 0.3%
Indiana $61,045 $62,743 2.8% $35773 $37998 6.2%
Yes $65,378 $65,600 0.3% $37979 $39,068 2.9%
kansas $65,797 $64,124 -2.5% $37374 $38.071 1.9%
Kentucky $55,420 $55,573 0.3% $34,113 $34928 2.4%
Louisiana $54125 $52,087 -3.8% $34,020 $34896 2.6%
who $62,445 $64,767 3.7% $37336 $39725 6.4%
Maryland $91,922 $90,203 -1.9% $48,633 $50,548 3.9%
Massachusetts $90,973 $89,645 -1.5% $48,470 $50683 4.6%
Michigan $63,145 $63,498 0.6% $35,320 $37,258 5.5%
Minnesota $79,051 $77,720 -1.7% $43,426 43,853 dollars 1.0%
Mississippi $48,529 $48,716 0.4% $31,094 $32242 3.7%
Missouri $60,840 $61,847 1.7% $36,623 $37.083 1.3%
Montana $60,569 $63,249 4.4% $33,184 $35272 6.3%
Nebraska $67,008 $66,817 -0.3% $38,233 38,898 dollars 1.7%
Nevada $67,057 $66,274 -1.2% $37649 $37.052 -1.6%
New Hampshire $82,590 $88,465 7.1% $43,433 $45,677 5.2%
New Jersey $90,876 $89,296 -1.7% $48,233 $50.021 3.7%
New Mexico $55,049 $53992 -1.9% $32,085 $34,133 6.4%
New York $76,417 $74,314 -2.8% 43,972 dollars $43,462 -1.2%
North Carolina $60,768 $61,972 2.0% $35,189 $37,218 5.8%
North Dakota $68,436 $66,519 -2.8% $39,633 $39,438 -0.5%
Ohio $62,147 $62,262 0.2% $36,935 $38214 3.5%
Oklahoma 57,703 dollars $55,826 -3.3% $34,255 $34460 0.6%
Oregon $71,065 $71,562 0.7% $37773 $40,063 6.1%
Pennsylvania $67,256 $68,957 2.5% $39,211 $40,983 4.5%
Rhode Island $75,422 $74,008 -1.9% $41,484 $41,891 1.0%
South Carolina 59,587 dollars $59,318 -0.5% $34308 $35987 4.9%
South Dakota 63,091 dollars $66,143 4.8% $34875 $37,149 6.5%
Tennessee $59,422 $59,695 0.5% $34552 $36663 6.1%
Texas $67,861 $66,963 -1.3% $37,440 $38.059 1.7%
Utah 80,309 dollars $79,449 -1.1% $35,392 $37325 5.5%
Vermont $66,766 $72,431 8.5% $37,594 $40,249 7.1%
Virginia $81,025 $80,963 -0.1% $42,820 $43963 2.7%
Washington $83,389 $84,247 1.0% $44,229 $46951 6.2%
West Virginia $51769 $51248 -1.0% $32821 $33739 2.8%
Wisconsin $68,003 $67,125 -1.3% $39,258 $40,678 3.6%
Wyoming $68,888 65,204 dollars -5.3% 36,858 dollars $35613 -3.4%

NB: All values ​​are in 2021 dollars.

source: EPI analysis of the American Community Survey’s one-year income and earnings data.

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