For the average American family, where you live affects your household income.

Everyone knows that the average American family living in remote Iowa is probably making less money than a high-powered executive on Wall Street. But we don't need such an extreme example to be aware that where you live affects how much money your household makes.

But how much does where you live affect your income? And how do you compare to the rest of those in your state? The answer to that question is relatively easy, as the Census Bureau collects data on the median income in each state. The most recent data is from 2013, and the results clearly show that those living in the Northeast make the most money, those in the Southeast make the least, and everyone else is somewhere in between.

Simply hover over your state to see what the median income in your state was in 2013.

Median Income by State
Create your own infographics

Let's dive a little deeper
As someone who spent the first five years of his adult life in Washington, D.C., I know that salaries are much higher in the District than in my native Wisconsin -- but so are the costs of normal expenses. For example, my wife and I paid $1,400 a month for a 600-square-foot apartment in 2010 in D.C.; today in Wisconsin, we live in a space twice the size for half the money.

What would happen, I wondered, if we normalized the median income from each state and then accounted for these differences in purchasing power? The Tax Foundation has already done this exercise for us. Using the same 2013 data set, it showed how far $100 nominally goes in each state.

Source: Tax Foundation.

Obviously, this data set isn't perfect -- there are significant variations between living in urban and rural areas within each state. That being said, it's interesting to see how the income heat map changes when we compare apples to apples in income. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that Minnesota is the third wealthiest on an adjusted basis.

Median Adjusted Income by State
Create your own infographics

Three things stick out here. First, the states surrounding D.C. remain the wealthiest. Second, though the areas surrounding New York City and Boston are the richest nominally, when adjusted for their high cost of living, they no longer are. And third, a large swath of the Midwest and Great Plains -- extending from Wisconsin from Utah -- are far better off than one might think.

In fact, when we adjust for cost of living, here are the five states that moved up the most -- all from the same general region of the United States.


Income and Rank

Adjusted Income and Rank


South Dakota

26th ($52,293)

9th ($59,679)

+17 ($7,405)


21st ($53,537)

7th ($60,394)

+14 ($5,857)


30th ($50,399)

19th ($56,503)

+11 ($6,103)

North Dakota

19th ($54,732)

8th ($59,882) 

+11 ($5,150)


23rd ($53,364)

15th ($58,968)

+8 ($5,603)

And those (inclusive of D.C.) that moved down the most:


Income and Rank

Adjusted Income and Rank


New York

27th ($51,108)

50th ($44,326)

-23 (-$6,782)


13th ($59,244)

35th ($50,986)

-22 (-$8,259)

Washington, D.C.

7th ($63,435)

27th ($53,894)

-20 (-$9,541)


14th ($57,688)

32th ($51,371)

-18 (-$6,317)

New Jersey

5th ($64,722)

18th ($56,528)

-13 (-$8,194)

Just to make sure you're truly appreciating what this means: Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas are all in the top 10 richest in the country in adjusted (apples-to-apples) income. Florida and New York are in the 10 poorest states in the Union.

Those are surprising findings.

So even if your income doesn't quite match up with what your state offers, take a step back, and you might be surprised by how much purchasing power you still have compared with (what others commonly believe are) wealthier states.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.