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Mirroring a national trend, many more people in the Midwest are living in concentrated areas of poverty — a demographic trend that carries with it implications related to everything from crime and health, to economic and educational opportunity.

State median household income in 2012 ranged from a low of $36,641 in Mississippi to a high of $71,836 in Maryland. Median income has been on the decline since the recession, falling 8.3 percent since 2007.

Discussion about income mobility in the United States usually revolves around the concept of upward mobility which is defined as a person’s chance to make it to a higher economic strata than the one they arrived in.  While the concept is controversial and subject to many debates, a similar concept called intergenerational mobility is less discussed. Intergenerational mobility is defined as how the economic status of children compare to their parents. If for instance children of poor parents are likely to remain poor then there is low intergenerational mobility.

Real median household income fell between 2010 and 2011 by 1.5 percent—the second consecutive annual drop—landing at $50,054 in 2011. Nevada saw the biggest drop from 2010 to 2011 in real median household income—10.9 percent—while Oklahoma saw the biggest year over year increase—9.0 percent. Median household income in 2011 ranged from a low of $39,856 in Kentucky to a high of $68,876 in Maryland. From 2010 to 2011, 28 states experienced a decrease in real median household income while 21 states saw an increase and one state—North Carolina—saw no year-over-year change.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released the state personal income levels for 2012. Based on this data, average state personal income growth slowed to 3.5 percent in 2012 from 5.2 percent in 2011. While North Dakota demonstrated the largest increase in state personal income growth (12.4 percent) among all the states, South Dakota’s -0.2 percent was the most anemic. In terms of inflation, as measured by the national price index for personal consumption expenditures, the rate fell to 1.8 percent in 2012 from 2.4 percent in 2011.

Legislators in several states are considering raising the minimum wage this year, but the issue is controversial. Proponents of raising state minimum wages argue that while the federal rate has remained stagnant—it hasn’t increased since 2009—the costs for housing, food, utilities and health care have continued to climb. This leaves those earning minimum wage with less money to afford the basics, which in turn puts downward pressure on the demand for goods and services. Opponents warn that raising the wage now would have a negative impact on businesses—especially during anemic economic times—and that a minimum wage hike actually hurts those that it intends to help by forcing employers to cut jobs at the low end of the pay scale.

The Great Recession has had a far-reaching and prolonged impact on poverty rates and income across the country with some places – like Greenwood County, South Carolina – seeing their poverty rates double and median household income drop by nearly $12,000, according to the New York Times. From 2007 to 2010, poverty rates increased in every state except five. The same is true for median household income – all states but five experienced decreases.  In 2010, poverty rates ranged from a low of 6.6 percent in New Hampshire to a high of 22.7 percent in Mississippi.  Check out The State of Poverty 2010 to learn more. 

Per capita personal income often is used to evaluate the economic well-being of a state’s residents. Nationally in 2010, inflation-adjusted per capita personal income grew by $780 after dropping more than $1,000 in 2009 and falling $541 in 2008. 

The number of poor children has been on the rise for the past 10 years, although those increases vary across state and racial and ethnic lines.  Higher childhood poverty rates mean bigger costs to states, including future health and criminal justice expenses.  

Chapter 10 of the 2011 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables: