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Best and Worst States for the Middle Class

Gabrielle Olya
Best and Worst States for the Middle Class

Read More: What It’s Really Like to Be in America’s Middle Class

Although the middle class is shrinking, there are a handful of states where middle-income families continue to thrive.

But first, what is considered middle class? The Pew Research Center defines “middle-income households” as those with an income that is two-thirds to double the U.S. median household income. And two of the biggest concerns for middle-income families are securing a good education for their kids and being able to afford housing in their state.

With that in mind, GOBankingRates determined how much the middle class makes in every state — and which states are the best to live on a middle-class income. To determine the best and worst states for the middle-class, GOBankingRates analyzed the following data in each state:

  • Income trends: This includes the change in median household incomes of middle-class families from 1999 to 2014 and the change in the proportion of households earning the middle-class income.
  • Higher education trends: This includes the college graduation rate, as well as tuition and fees, and the five-year change in tuition.
  • Housing trends: Lastly, this factor includes the median home list price, the estimated monthly mortgage payment and the homeownership rate.

Of all the states, only four have a middle class that is actually growing. In many states, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for families to afford college and a home on a middle-class income. And what about just having enough money to be happy? That’s yet another quandary for middle-class Americans.

50. Hawaii

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,529
  • Median household income change of middle class: -3.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,660
  • Median home list price: $615,000

Homeownership could be out of reach for many middle-class families in Hawaii. The state has the highest median home list price and one of the lowest homeownership rates at 61.7 percent. It’s the worst state for middle-class families, and it’s also one of the worst states to be poor in America.

49. Louisiana

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,928
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,300
  • Median home list price: $210,000

College is becoming less affordable for middle-class families in Louisiana, where in-state tuition and fees have risen 48 percent over the past five years — the largest increase of all the states. It’s also home to New Orleans, one of the places in the U.S. with the most income inequality. Overall, it’s the second-worst state for middle-class families.

48. Alaska

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $80,230
  • Median household income change of middle class: -1.8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,440
  • Median home list price: $288,500

Alaska has the highest median household income for middle-class families of all the states, and it also has affordable college, with the ninth-lowest in-state tuition and fees. However, a low college graduation rate and large five-year tuition increase make Alaska one of the worst states for middle-class families.

47. Connecticut

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $78,262
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,390
  • Median home list price: $325,000

Connecticut has the second-highest median household income for middle-class families, but it also has the 10th-highest in-state tuition and fees and the ninth-highest median home list price. It’s the fourth-worst state for middle class families, with rampant income inequality in areas like Bridgeport-Stamford.

46. New York

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,227
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,940
  • Median home list price: $380,000

New York has the lowest homeownership rate in the U.S. — 50.9 percent — and the sixth-most expensive homes. Overall, it’s the the fifth-worst state for middle-class families.

45. Massachusetts

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $77,965
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.66%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,730
  • Median home list price: $449,900

Massachusetts is the sixth-worst state for middle-class families. The middle class is declining more rapidly there than in any other state, with the proportion of middle-income households dropping 7.66 percent from 2010 to 2015. And in Boston, there’s major income inequality.

On the plus side, Massachusetts has the third-highest median household income for middle-class families.

44. New Jersey

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,768
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $13,870
  • Median home list price: $319,000

New Jersey is the seventh-worst state for middle class families. It has 10th-highest median household income for middle-class families, but it has the fourth-highest in-state tuition and fees. And the middle class is declining: N.J. saw the third-biggest drop in the middle income proportion of households from 2010 to 2015.

 

43. Virginia

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,999
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,820
  • Median home list price: $314,900

Virginia is the eighth-worst state for middle-class families. It has the seventh-highest in-state tuition and fees, which means some middle-class families might struggle to afford a college education for their children.

42. California

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,197
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,680
  • Median home list price: $532,000

Many middle-class families can’t afford homes in California, which is the ninth-worst state for middle class families. The state has the second-highest median home list price and the second-lowest homeownership rate: 55.2 percent.

41. Colorado

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,364
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,800
  • Median home list price: $419,500

With the fourth-highest median home list price in the U.S., it’s unsurprising that Colorado also has the fifth-lowest homeownership rate. Overall, Colorado is the 10th-worst state for middle class families, but it’s one of the best states for rich Americans.

40. Illinois

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,257
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $13,620
  • Median home list price: $230,000

It could be difficult for middle-class families to pay for college in Illinois. The state has the fifth-highest in-state tuition and fees in the country.

39. Rhode Island

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,908
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,230
  • Median home list price: $299,900

The middle class is disappearing in Rhode Island. The state had the sixth-largest drop in the proportion of middle income households between 2010 and 2015: 5.53 percent. It’s also one of the worst states to retire rich, a separate GOBankingRates study found.

38. Nevada

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,589
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,270
  • Median home list price: $308,694

Nevada has the ninth-lowest median household income for middle-class families and incomes have been dropping: the state had the eighth-largest decrease in middle class incomes between 1999 and 2014 of all the states. This drop can especially be felt in Las Vegas and Reno, which are two of the places in the U.S. with the most income inequality.

37. New Hampshire

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,647
  • Median household income change of middle class: -3.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $16,070
  • Median home list price: $295,500

It could be difficult for a middle-class family to pay for college in New Hampshire: The state has the highest in-state tuition in the U.S. It also experienced the fifth-largest drop in the proportion of middle income households between 2010 and 2015.

36. Georgia

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,845
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,570
  • Median home list price: $254,900

Georgia had the fourth-largest decrease in middle-class incomes between 1999 and 2014, which is bad news for middle-class families there. And Atlanta is one of the places in the U.S. with the most income inequality.

35. Maryland

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $77,416
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,580
  • Median home list price: $319,900

Maryland — one of the states with the most millionaires — has the fourth-highest median household income for middle-class families, but it also has the 10th-highest median home list price. The proportion of middle class households in Maryland declined by 6.78 percent from 2010 to 2015 — the second-largest drop of all the states.

34. Alabama

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,781
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,530
  • Median home list price: $199,900

Alabama had the 10th-largest decrease in middle class incomes between 1999 and 2014 of all the states. And life is especially tough in Birmingham for those earning minimum wage, a separate GOBankingRates study found. It’s one of the worst cities to be making minimum wage.

33. Kansas

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,250
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,230
  • Median home list price: $189,900

The median household income of middle-class families living in Kansas falls in the middle compared to the other states. Although the middle-class income has been dropping, the rich in Kansas have been getting richer.

32. Delaware

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,450
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,270
  • Median home list price: $285,000

Delaware had the fifth-largest decrease in middle class incomes between 1999 and 2014 of all the states.

31. Oregon

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,971
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.9%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,360
  • Median home list price: $375,015

The median home list price in Oregon is the seventh-highest of all the states, so it could be difficult for middle-class families to afford homes there. The Pacific Northwest state is one of the states where the rich are getting richer.

 

30. Arizona

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,895
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.9%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $11,220
  • Median home list price: $280,000

The median income for middle-class families in Arizona is among the lowest of all the states. And it’s not enough to afford in-state tuition without taking out loans, a separate GOBankingRates study found.

 

29. New Mexico

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,680
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,920
  • Median home list price: $224,900

New Mexico — which is one of the the worst states to be rich in America — has 10th-lowest median household income for middle-class families, but it also has the fifth-lowest in-state tuition and fees.

28. Ohio

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,458
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,510
  • Median home list price: $165,000

Ohio had the second-largest decrease in middle class incomes between 1999 and 2014. Fortunately, Ohio does have affordable homes, with the second-lowest median home list price in the U.S.

27. Texas

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,542
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,840
  • Median home list price: $279,000

Everything might be bigger in Texas, but salaries aren’t: middle-class incomes in the state are on the lower end compared to the rest of the U.S.

 

26. Vermont

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,540
  • Median household income change of middle class: 0.2%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $16,040
  • Median home list price: $253,000

Vermont is one of only two states where the median household income of middle-class families has risen between 1999 and 2014. However, it’s one of the costliest states for an in-state college education: Vermont has the second-highest in-state tuition and fees in the country.

25. Pennsylvania

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,659
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $14,440
  • Median home list price: $209,900

Pennsylvania has the third-most expensive in-state colleges, which means higher education could be a major financial burden for middle-class families living there. However, a separate GOBankingRates study found that it’s the best state for poor Americans.

24. Utah

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,367
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,790
  • Median home list price: $349,900

Utah has the sixth-lowest median household income for middle-class families, but at least college is affordable. The state has the third-lowest in-state tuition and fees.

23. Kentucky

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,926
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,300
  • Median home list price: $182,900

Kentucky’s median home list price is the 10th-lowest of all the states, which is good news for middle-class families who want to be homeowners.

22. South Carolina

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,752
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,610
  • Median home list price: $249,900

Paying for college could be difficult for middle-class families in South Carolina. The state has the ninth-highest in-state tuition and fees.

21. Michigan

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,248
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,930
  • Median home list price: $179,900

Michigan had the third-largest decrease in the median middle-class income between 1999 and 2014. It could become more difficult for middle-class families to pay for college in Michigan, especially since the state has the sixth-highest in-state tuition and fees in the country.

20. Missouri

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,646
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,870
  • Median home list price: $179,900

Missouri had the sixth-largest decrease in median middle class income between 1999 and 2014. However, it has affordable homes, with the sixth-lowest median home list price.

19. Arkansas

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,245
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,550
  • Median home list price: $171,050

Arkansas has the fifth-lowest median household income for middle-class families, and income inequality is rampant in some areas, such as the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers area. On the plus side, homes are affordable: The state has the third-lowest median home list price.

18. Tennessee

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,744
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,790
  • Median home list price: $239,500

The median income of middle-class families in Tennessee is very low compared to most of the other states. Middle-class workers in the Southern state might need to take up a weekend job or side gig to help supplement their income.

17. North Carolina

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,342
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,380
  • Median home list price: $259,900

North Carolina had the ninth-largest decrease in median middle class income between 1999 and 2014 of all the states. On the plus side, N.C. has the eighth-lowest in-state tuition and fees, and is home to great universities.

16. Montana

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $70,813
  • Median household income change of middle class: -3.2%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,910
  • Median home list price: $319,000

Montana has the third-lowest median household income for middle-class families, but as a positive, it has the fourth-lowest in-state tuition and fees.

But it’s not a good place to boost your wealth: Montana is one of the worst states to grow your money, according to a separate GOBankingRates study.

15. Indiana

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,352
  • Median household income change of middle class: -9.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,360
  • Median home list price: $179,900

Middle-class incomes are on the decline in Indiana: The state saw the biggest drop in incomes between 1999 and 2014. And Indiana is the one of the states with the poorest retirees, a separate GOBankingRates study found. But homes are affordable: Indiana has the fifth-lowest median home list price.

14. Minnesota

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $76,310
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $11,300
  • Median home list price: $269,000

Minnesota is a state where the rich are getting richer, but the middle class is also doing well: The state has the sixth-highest median household income for middle-class families.

 

13. Wisconsin

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,577
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,960
  • Median home list price: $209,900

Wisconsin had the seventh-largest decrease in middle class incomes between 1999 and 2014 of all the states. Fortunately, college tuition and fees have also decreased — it’s one of only three states where these costs have dropped over the past five years.

12. Maine

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,454
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,970
  • Median home list price: $245,000

Maine has the eighth-lowest median household income for middle-class families. But fortunately, there are ways to make extra money outside of a 9-to-5.

 

11. Oklahoma

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,249
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,460
  • Median home list price: $180,000

Oklahoma is one of only four states where the proportion of middle-income households is actually increasing: It went up 0.66 percent from 2010 to 2015.

10. Idaho

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $70,476
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,250
  • Median home list price: $298,000

Idaho has the second-lowest median household income for middle-class families, but fortunately, it has the sixth-lowest in-state tuition and fees. And, it’s one of the states where you can afford a home on a middle-class income, according to a separate GOBankingRates study. Overall, it’s the 10th-best state for the middle class.

9. Washington

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,183
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,480
  • Median home list price: $385,000

Washington is the ninth-best state for the middle class. Unlike most states in the country, the cost of in-state tuition in Washington has actually dropped in the last five years. On the negative side, the state has the fifth-highest median home list price in the U.S.

8. North Dakota

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,801
  • Median household income change of middle class: -0.9%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,200
  • Median home list price: $232,000

North Dakota has the ninth-highest median household income for middle-class families, which helps make it the eighth-best state for the middle class.

 

7. West Virginia

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $70,838
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,890
  • Median home list price: $158,000

West Virginia is the seventh-best states for the middle class, and it’s also one of the best states for the wealthy class. It’s one of only four states where the middle income proportion of households has increased, and it increased the most in the state: 1.04 percent between 2010 and 2015.

6. Nebraska

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,432
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,270
  • Median home list price: $209,000

Nebraska is the sixth-best state for the middle class thanks to its affordable colleges and homes. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is one of the best affordable colleges in the U.S.

5. Mississippi

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,391
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,990
  • Median home list price: $180,000

Mississippi is one of only four states where the proportion of households that are middle income increased from 2010 to 2015. It also has the seventh-lowest median home list price and the second-highest homeownership rate. Overall, it’s the fifth-best state for the middle class, and the state where you’re least likely to live paycheck to paycheck.

4. Wyoming

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,811
  • Median household income change of middle class: -0.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $5,220
  • Median home list price: $249,900

Wyoming is the fourth-best state for the middle class. The median household income of middle-class families in Wyoming is the eighth-highest, whereas the cost of sending a child to college is low. In fact, Wyoming has the least expensive in-state tuition and fees.

3. Florida

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $70,124
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,360
  • Median home list price: $290,000

Florida is the third-best state for the middle class. Although it has the lowest median household income for middle-class families, the Sunshine State has the second-lowest tuition and fees. It’s one of only three states where college costs have actually decreased over the past five years.

2. Iowa

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,953
  • Median household income change of middle class: -3.8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,760
  • Median home list price: $181,900

Iowa has the seventh-highest median household income for middle-class families, and it also has has the ninth-lowest median home list price — both of which make it the second-best state for the middle class to live.

1. South Dakota

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $77,176
  • Median household income change of middle class: 1.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,450
  • Median home list price: $229,500

South Dakota has the fifth-highest median household income for middle-class families, and it’s where middle-class incomes increased the most between 1999 and 2014. It’s one of only two states where middle-class incomes actually increased over those years, and it’s one of only four states where the proportion of middle income households has increased from 2010 to 2015. Those factors make it the best state for the middle class — and it’s also one of the best states to be rich in America.

The Best and Worst States for Middle-Class Families

Based on income trends, college costs and housing trends, the best states for the middle class are:

  • South Dakota (Median middle-class income: $77,156)
  • Iowa (Median middle-class income: $75,953)
  • Florida (Median middle-class income: $70,124)
  • Wyoming (Median middle-class income: $75,811)
  • Mississippi (Median middle-class income: $71,391)

And the worst sates for the middle class are:

  • Hawaii (Median middle-class income: $74,529)
  • Louisiana (Median middle-class income: $72,928)
  • Alaska (Median middle-class income: $80,230)
  • Connecticut (Median middle-class income: $78,262)
  • New York (Median middle-class income: $73,227)

The middle class is growing in two of the best states — South Dakota and Mississippi — as well as in West Virginia and Oklahoma. It is shrinking in all other states.

Click through to read about why 22% of Americans mistakenly think they’re ‘middle class.’

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    Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best and worst states to live on a middle-class income by analyzing the following data and factors: (1) Change in median household income of middle-class families from 1999 to 2014; (2) Change in proportion of households earning middle-class incomes from 2010 to 2015; (3) Six-year college graduation rates of bachelor students for the year 2015; (4) In-state tuition for 2017-2018; (5) The change in tuition cost over the last five years; (6) Five-year change in median home values between May 2013 and May 2018; (7) Median home list price as of May 31, 2018; and (8) homeownership rates.

    All factors were weighted equally. The following sources were used to compile the data: The Pew Research Center, U.S. Census Bureau, College Board, Zillow and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

    This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Best and Worst States for the Middle Class