Although the US economy has been officially expanding for three years, typical household incomes fell across much of the US in 2011.
Newly released Census numbers, showing that trend, reveal an uneven pace of economic progress across the US.
A broad geographic pattern emerged, with coastal or Great Lakes states generally struggling. By contrast, typical households in inland states mostly experienced a measure of financial stabilization.
How did your state fare?
Here are the 18 states where household income fell, in order from the largest year-over-year decline (6 percent, adjusted for inflation) to the smallest (1 percent):
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
If you live in a state other than those 18, then the Census numbers didn't confirm a clear change in income. Except, that is, if you live in Vermont, which saw median incomes rise about 4 percent.
Fuller detail on the income trends is viewable in the Census report here, which includes a 50-state table on its final page.
A rise in poverty
An often-overlapping list of 17 states saw a rising poverty rate last year.
Here are the 17 states where the share of poor households rose. In this case, they're listed geographically, from Atlantic to Great Lakes to the West:
- New York
- South Carolina
Again, if you live in a state other than those 17 or Vermont (which saw a meaningful decline in poverty), the Census Bureau didn't confirm a clear change for 2011. More on the trends is viewable in a separate Census report on poverty.
The numbers, released Thursday, come a week after the Census Bureau released data on income and poverty for the nation as a whole. The two sets of data were collected separately, and thus don't align precisely. Both show a decline in median household income in 2011. But last week's Current Population Survey found the nation's official poverty rate remaining flat compared to 2010. The new state-level data, from the American Community Survey, suggests that poverty was still experiencing some post-recession rise in 2011.
For the politically interested readers, it's notable that four prominent battlegrounds in the presidential race are on the declining-income list: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Nevada. The national economy has improved since 2011, but these results suggest that economic frustrations are a factor in those hot election contests.
Some political analysts see the first three of those states as ones Mitt Romney must win in order to unseat President Obama. At the very least, the Republican challenger's path to the White House grows much harder if he loses one of those states.
The states that struggled with income declines in 2011 were, in many cases, hit disproportionately by the housing bust. Declines in home values have affected everything from the construction industry to consumer confidence and the financial health of local governments.