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  • Writer's pictureMorgan Rothschild | Aificial Business

Here's how much income it takes to be considered rich in your state

 

Many Americans aspire to join the ranks of the wealthy, but the income threshold for being considered rich depends a lot on where you live. 


It also takes considerably more income to join the top 5% of earners than just a few years ago, according to new research from GoBankingRates.com, which examined state income data for the five-year period from 2017 to 2022. The latter year represents the most recent household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau. 


The easiest place to reach the top of the heap is West Virginia, where an annual income of $329,620 will qualify you as among its highest earners. But you'll have to earn more than twice that, at $719,253, to join the top 5% in Washington D.C. 


Americans' fortunes have improved during the last few years, partly due to the federal government's pandemic stimulus efforts that doled out billions in aid to businesses and taxpayers, said Andrew Murray, lead data content researcher for GoBankingRates. At the same time, the nation's top-earning households are gaining a greater share of income, fueling rising income inequality, Census data shows.


Those that have attained a college degree, are homeowners, able to send their children to college and have discretionary income consider themselves members of the middle class. GETTY

"COVID relief policies bolstered the economy, leading to boosted stock prices, real estate and savings," Murray told Aificial News. "These conditions were especially favorable for the wealthiest of Americans, who experienced dramatic income increases, especially considering the fact that many companies saw record profits."


To be sure, income isn't the same as wealth, which has also grown since the pandemic. But earning a higher salary can help families build their assets, allowing them to buy homes, invest in education for their children and take other steps to cement their wealth. 

The outsized income growth of the nation's top-earning families before and after the pandemic may be one of the U.S. economy's most important storylines, Murray said. 


"Even though the bottom 20% of earners saw drastic increases in pay, their overall wealth share in the country actually decreased, as the rich became much richer," he said. 


After West Virginia, Mississippi had the second-lowest threshold for joining its top-earning households, at $333,597, according to GoBankingRates. 


Meanwhile, joining the 5% of earners requires considerably more in many Eastern states, with Connecticut's threshold at $656,438 and New York at $621,301, the study found.


Here's the income it takes to be a top earner in your state

Based on 2022 household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent data available. Source: GoBankingRates, U.S. Census Bureau

"This comes down to cost of living," Murray said. "People in New York or D.C. are paid higher salaries than people in states with a lower cost of living, such as Arkansas or Louisiana."


Between 2017 and 2022, Idaho, Nevada and Washington saw the biggest jumps in the amount needed to be considered among their states' top earners, according to GoBankingRates. Idahoans require an extra $115,769 in annual income, while Nevadans need an additional $129,469. Washingtonians must earn $166,144 more to join the top 5%.


The reason is due to changes in the economies of Idaho, Nevada and Washington during the past few years, Murray said. Washington, for example, saw residents' incomes rise 44% between 2017 and 2022, which Murray said is "likely due to Seattle's rising reputation as a tech hub after COVID."


Photo via Getty Images

In Idaho, thousands of people moved to Boise during the pandemic, bringing with them their salaries from remote-work jobs, he said. 


"In the case of Nevada, which ranked number two studywide, gambling became more readily legalized and accessible from 2017 to 2022," Murray said. "This led to major profit increases for companies headquartered in Las Vegas."

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