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Study shows WA residents among top earners in US. Here’s how much the median person makes

By Rosemary Montalvo, The News Tribune
Published: June 16, 2024, 6:02am

TACOMA — Have you ever wondered where people are earning the most?

If you have, you’ll be happy to know that Washington is among the states with the top earners in the country.

A recent study by WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions, including the annual income of different populations and the median yearly income for each state.

Where did WA rank for top earners?

WalletHub used three key dimensions to determine the states where people have the best incomes: income for three different population segments adjusted for the cost of living index. The metrics were graded on a 100-point scale, with 50 points for the average annual income of the top 5 percent, 25 points for median annual household income, and 25 points for the yearly average income of the bottom 20 percent.

Based on this scale, Wallethub ranked Washington as the fifth-overall state where people earn the highest income in the U.S.

Washington received a total score of 62.29 and was ranked eighth for the average yearly income of the top 5 percent of earners, 11th place for the median annual household income, and sixth for the average annual income of those in the bottom 20 percent of earners.

According to the study, the median annual income in Washington is $103,748, while the average annual income of the top 5 percent is $474,067. The average annual income of the bottom 20 percent is $18,223.

Paul Turek, an economist at the Washington Employment Security Department, told McClatchy News in an email that a gap between the top and bottom earners will always exist.

“Individually, an appreciable gap between the top and bottom will always exist in a market-based economy predicated upon economic freedom, incentives (to succeed and attain wealth), freedom to choose (what career pathway, how hard to work), equality of opportunity, and shifting market valuations,” Turek stated in the email.

“The key for every generation has been to not get mired in where one starts, but how one finishes, and whether accumulated wealth can be passed on to the next generation,” he continued.

Turek added that the income gap on a state basis exists and depends on the levels of economic development, innovation, economic freedom, entrepreneurship, and natural resource endowment.

While the study highlights wage inequality and the median annual income of workers in the state, it does not mention information related to how much a person needs to make to live comfortably in Washington.

Turek said that it is highly subjective to pinpoint an exact number that can determine how much a person needs to make to live comfortably in Washington, but it usually means a person has to earn enough to be part of the middle-class status.

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“What is considered middle-class income will depend on a person’s location. A middle-class person in Arkansas may not be a middle-class person in New York City, for example, where the cost of living is much higher,” Turek said. “Generally, a three-person household should have an income between $51,967 and $155,902 to be considered middle class.”

McClatchy News previously reported that Washington had a 52 percent middle class income range change between 2012 and 2022. In 2012, the middle class income ranged from about $39,600 to nearly $118,800, while in 2022, the range was $60,200 to almost $180,700.

Turek said that the highest-paying jobs in Washington are typically those of healthcare specialists, such as doctors and dentists, as well as CEOs and airline pilots.

These are the top five states where people have the highest incomes, according to WalletHub:

  1. Virginia — $518,296, 69.59/100,
  2. New Jersey — $505,621, 68.85/100
  3. New York — $553,436, 67.60/100
  4. Connecticut — $518,757, 67.42/100
  5. Washington — $474,067, 62.29/100