- Maryland leads the list of high salary states with a median income of $90,203.
- Washington D. C. comes in second place, primarily because of the high concentration of government-related jobs.
- California, with a median income of $84,907, ranks in sixth place.
California is one of the highest-earning states, but it doesn't top the list.
It's not so surprising that California, home to Silicon Valley and Hollywood, is among America's wealthiest states. But there are several states where people can earn even more. Some of them might surprise you.
These five states have higher median salaries than California
According to the latest info from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income in California is $84,907, putting it in the top 10 states for high salaries. However, workers in Maryland earn the most, with a median income of $90,203.
Talking about average salaries can be a bit misleading. For example, there are a lot of people earning top dollar in California, but the state also has one of the biggest gaps between high and low incomes. Both extremes can skew mean salary calculations, which are calculated by dividing the total income by the number of earners. Median income, which is calculated by looking at the midpoint, can often be a better indicator.
Here are the five states with higher salaries than California.
1. Maryland: Median income $90,203
Maryland tops the list of high income states, though it's not far off from Washington D.C., which comes in second place. Maryland's proximity to Washington D.C. is often cited as one of the reasons it's home to so many top earners. One study showed that federal, local, and state government work accounted for almost 20% of Maryland's employment. It's also a magnet for aerospace, defense, and military jobs.
2. District of Columbia: Median income $90,088
As with Maryland, the federal government and everything that goes with it accounts for a lot of D.C's top-dollar salaries. And it isn't only government jobs -- it's also lobbying, lawyers, and a whole host of other related careers. If we use mean income instead of median, D.C. actually tops the list with a mean salary of $138,856.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Washington D.C. is also one of the most expensive states to live in. Data from the Missouri Economic and Research Center puts it as the second-least affordable state, second only to Hawaii. Even with high salaries, D.C. residents could find it difficult to build their savings.
3. Massachusetts: Median income $89,645
According to an IBISWorld study, professional, scientific, and technical services; real estate; and manufacturing are the state's top three sectors by total employment. Massachusetts also has a flourishing technology sector and boasts some attractive vacation spots.
4. New Jersey: Median income $89,296
New Jersey is another state that benefits from its wealthy neighbors -- in this case, New York City and Philadelphia. Pharmacy, IT, transport, and manufacturing are key industries for the state, which is also a popular vacation destination.
5. New Hampshire: Median income $88,465
New Hampshire consistently rates as one of the country's highest-earning states. The state has been championing something called "smart manufacturing." This is essentially a move away from traditional factory work toward more tech-focused production, such as computer parts. Unlike some of the other states on this list, New Hampshire also has a relatively low poverty rate and less inequality than a lot of the country.
Salaries are only one indicator
If your bank balance is being hammered by increasing costs of living, the idea of moving to a higher paying state may appeal to you. But don't forget to factor in the cost of living. Check out our list of affordable cities with high salaries and low costs of living to get an idea of localities that could actually help you reduce your costs.
The prevalence of remote work also makes it more feasible to live in a lower-cost area and work somewhere with higher salaries. But more and more companies are demanding their employees come to the office for at least some of the workweek, so consider places that are commutable as well as affordable.
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