Election 2012

State-By-State Avg. Personal Income Growth Since 2007


USA Today reports that average U.S. personal income has grown about 2 percent since the recession started in December 2007. Residents of "red states" saw an average growth of 4.6 percent, which compares favorably to growth of 0.5 percent in "blue states." Swing states that are neither solidly Republican nor Democratic saw a 1.4 percent increase.

Does this sort of thing matter in the upcoming election?

Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman, author of Red StateBlue State, Rich State, Poor State, says local conditions matter less than people think. "People vote based on what they think is good for the country, not what's good for themselves."

For a full state-by-state breakdown, go here.

NEXT: Four More Years of This Exhausted Nonsense?

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  1. “People vote based on what they think is good for the country, not what’s good for themselves.”

    People vote based on hair-dos, from what I can tell listening casually to my fellow voters. And Pennsylvania is no longer considered a solid blue state? That didn’t take long.

    1. People vote based on hair-dos

      I have never said anything good about John Edwards, and never will again, but it’s perverse stubbornness to deny that he had better hair than Dick Cheney.

      1. You’d have to get up pretty early in the morning to out hair John Edwards.

        1. His vote got split between the two Americas.

  2. Hmmm, the highest growth states correlate rather well with states that have less governmental regulation. I suspect that’s not just coincidence.

    1. Income equality! Cause it’s bad for other people to be better off if I don’t get better off too!

  3. Obama is helping the wrong damn states.

  4. WI and IA are swing states?

    But KY and MO arent?

    Someone needs to explain to me the methodology. Because, with the exception of last time, KY (and maybe MO?) have voted for the presidential winner for multiple deades.

    KY went for Clinton twice, Carter in 76, Johnson in 64. It did go for Nixon in 60, but that was probably more anti-catholic than pro-republican.

    In my lifetime, the state house has never not had a democratic majority.

    1. Missouri’s streak was even longer. Before voting for McCain, the last time MO didnt vote for the winner, was Stevenson in 56.

      From 1960-2004, MO was the freaking definition of a swing state.

      1. Ohio now has the longest current streak, it started voting for the winner in 1964.

        1. Top 9, the true swing states:

          1. Ohio
          2. Nevada
          3. Florida
          North Carolina
          New Mexico

          1. How does Iowa wind up with 8.9%? I wasn’t aware that I was living in a boom state.

            1. Farm income on near record prices.

              1. That and Ethanol subsidies

    2. Iowa went for Gore against Bush; went for Bush against Kerry, and went for Obama against McCain. The spread was very low single digits.

      So, yes Iowa is swinging in the wind again this year. Normally our 8 electoral votes mean jackshit in the election, but the last three elections have been close enough that Iowa matters, and I hate it.

  5. “People vote based on what they think is good for the country, not what’s good for themselves.”


    1. This is actually generally true, especially in Presidential elections. This is not to say that they vote for what actually is best for the country, they vote for what they “think” is best (or more properly who is best). Those opinions of course tend to be rather worthless with around 90% of the electorate being handed their opinion straight from one party central comittee or the other with little to no actual thought of their own going into it but it is an accurate description of how people vote.

      This is why for example the working classes tend to vote more Republican and the rich tend to vote more Democrat even when ostensibly their own economic self interest would seem to have them voting the other way as Republicans supposedly favor policies to benefit the rich and Democrats supposedly favor those who benefit the poor. The people by and large are not voting based on their self interest.

      1. “What’s good for me is good for the country!”

        1. “What’s good for GM is…oh, nevermind”.

      2. Polls showing extreme lows of positive responses to “the country is headed in the right direction” would have an effect on a sane electorate if they actually voted this way.
        But how often do people think they are the problem? The cluelessness of people as to how their expressed preference for corrupt, inefficient, overbearing government results in the problems we face is downright disheartening.

    2. All politics are local. Andrew Gelman is a dipshit.

  6. Isn’t USA Today forgetting about inflation? Over at the Weekly Standard, they’re reporting that real incomes have fallen like 6%. Just want to keep it real… Not that 2% growth sounds all that hot…

    1. I hoped to trip up USA Today on this exact point, but they are correct, or at least they’re consistently using the BEA data. More below.

  7. Could somebody explain why median income is down 8.2% and personal income is up 2%?

    1. Personal income only counts those who actually have income, median income adds in all the unemployed with near $0 incomes is my guess.

    2. The very wealthy are making more than they did, everyone else is making less. The big increase at the top extreme will drive the mean up while leaving the median unaffected.

      1. Linky, Stormy one? I vaguely recall that all even the top income levels have taken a hit.

        1. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer!

          I saw it on a bumper sticker so it must be true!

          1. Ezra Klein is a moron. You two should hang out sometime.

            1. That’s great. IRS data doesn’t change based on the intelligence of the reader. Of course it’s always easier to ad hominem the messenger rather than actually address the data.

              I guess we’ll have to wait for Glenn Reynolds to imagine up an “unskewed” version for you.

              1. Cherry picked data does not prove a trend.

                Thank you for playing.

                1. I didn’t claim there was a trend. I explained why over a specific time period the mean was growing while the median was declining. The only way that can happen is if there’s a large change in one of the two extremes because the mean is much more sensitive to outliers than the median is.

          2. 2010? We’re nearly done with 2012.

            Anything more current?

            1. http://www.google.com/

              I gave you some data. If you want a shinier rock, go find it yourself.

          3. In 2010, 93 percent of income gains went to the top 1 percent

            So in Obama’s 2010 America with his summer of recovery with all the bailouts, solyndras and stimulus only the 1% gained wealth while the middle class and poor payed for it?

            Yup sounds about right.

            1. Oh wait i forgot about QE1 And QE2 and the dems controlled both houses of congress and the white house in 2010.

              Only stormy and Klein can put the blame of the “Mistakes of the past” when the powers of change are in charge.

              1. Where did I blame “the mistakes of the past”?

                A suprising number of people here seem to think the voices in their head when they read a comment are the author communicating with them telepathically.

      2. Re: Stormy Dragon,

        The very wealthy are making more than they did, everyone else is making less.

        Actually, the wealthy are not getting wealthier, they are just not seeing their wealth being assaulted by Ben Bernanke’s inflation. That’s why I bought gold and silver as my personal protection device.

        1. You don’t understand!
          If you have a fixed amount of wealth, and The Bernank prints a bunch of dollars making the dollars worth less, you become richer as that wealth is now worth more devalued dollars!


          Government creates wealth!

        2. I donno, seems to me like steel and lead might provide a better protection device.

    3. Easy – the top quintile is seeing gains and the other 80% are getting squeezed. Bailouts and QE directly benefit the top quintile only. Tax cuts help all quinitiles (in general, depends on how the progression is manipulated) but only evil capitalists are in favor of tax cuts.

      Qunitiles 2, 3, and 4 are really getting squeezed by property taxes – shooting up to cover public employee pension shortfalls. The top quintile would feel it too, but basically the Fed is giving them money to pay their increased taxes.

  8. The USA Today data is not consistent with Census Bureau income data. They have a significant decrease in inflation adjusted median household income from 2007 to 2011.


    1. I think it’s been pointed out that the USA Today numbers are nominal, not inflation-adjusted. Why, if they showed most states having inflation-adjusted decreases it might cause unrest aimed at the current POTUS; doing it this way causes unrest pointed at the Republicans.

      1. Not true, I’m afraid. See below.

  9. These kind of maps are pointless without looking at regional purchasing power disparities. Also, they don’t take taxes into account.

    1. That would only increase the disparity though right? Texas has no income tax and low cost of living for example.

      1. Perhaps, unless year-to-year increases in cost-of-living have increased more than in say California. For a state like North Dakota (oil boom) that might actually be the case, because of the housing shortage.

  10. Alternate interpretation: the poorest states are finally starting to catch up with the wealthier parts of the country.


    1. Thats an interpretation without a reason why.

      1. Same reason why China’s income growth is much higher than hours. Not because a police state is economically superior, it’s just that it’s easy to have large growth when you start out so far behind. Likewise it’s easier for Missippi to have a bigger income gain than New Jersey when the average incomes in the former is less than half that of the latter.

        1. “Rural” America is not friggin china.

          In the “Rural” western states the cost of living is magnitudes cheaper then the “Urban” western states.

          Everything from housing to power to local taxes to sewer to water to food is vastly cheaper where I live then it is in Portland or Seattle.

          The same cost of living chasm can be found in every western state with the exception of maybe California.

          Note: when i speak of Rural vs Urban it is mostly a red/blue and agriculture/non-ag split. Spokane Washington is a city and urban yet it still is vastly cheaper to live there then in Seattle and its surrounding burbs.

          Note2: farm and ag industries (rural) are virtually printing their own money right now.

    2. Re: Stormy Dragon,

      Calif -1.8%
      Texas +8.6%

      So the poorest states are catching up with a little help from the “wealthier” states… that is, helping them by moving backwards.

      Yes, progress. Thy name is Moonbeam.

  11. In what skimpily-clad-Vulcan-ladies alternate universe is Hawaii a swing state?

    1. “skimpily-clad-Vulcan-ladies”

      Huh, sorry, got a bit distracted there!

    2. I was wondering the same thing; they must take local elections into account. There’s no way it’s anything but a solid blue state at the national level.

  12. And…… DC is in the lead by a full length

    1. I’d say North Dakota’s 30.4% is far ahead of DC’s 13.8%.

      1. DC has a way of “catching up”.

  13. The biggest gains (other than DC) are all in states that have been having shale booms. Yeah yeah, coorelation is not causation, but north dakota didn’t just get a bumper crop this year or have a bunch of tech companies move in…

  14. Regarding the discrepancy between median and personal, I think this question remains open.

    But USA Today‘s personal income measure, adjusted for [in/de]flation, is correct. Here’s the pdf of the Q3 2007 report from BEA, which shows the U.S. total at $11,727,099,000.

    Here’s the pdf of Q2 2012 from the same source, which shows the U.S. total at $13,370,344,000.

    Plugging the 2007 total into the BLS inflation calculator, I get $13,030,050,000 in today’s dollars. Subtracting that from the actual figure, I get 340,294,000, or about 2.5 percent of the actual Q2 2012 total. So USA Today may be understating total personal income growth slightly.

    I say the discrepancy is still unexplained because a) mathematically I don’t see how even 8+ percent unemployment can account for a 10.2 percent personal/median disparity and b) I don’t know of anybody who’s making more, in nominal dollars, than they were in 2007 (that includes me, unfortunately).

    This is not just an exercise in OCD. I’ve been trying for three days to write a showstopping proof that the Bernankean consensus of stagnant growth and 11 percent cumulative inflation has moved everybody backward since 2007. But these data don’t show that.

    1. Are you adjusting for population change too?

      1. Good point, SD.
        $11,727 T / (Jul) 2007 Census estimate 301,621,157 = $38,880.23
        $13,370 T / (Aug) 2012 Census estimate 314,067,186 = $38,314.44

        There you go, Tim.

        1. Sorry – the 2012 figure should be $42,571. Multiplied by .89, it’s $37,888.73

    2. ” I don’t know of anybody who’s making more, in nominal dollars, than they were in 2007 (that includes me, unfortunately).”

      I am.

      In 2007 I was earning $80,000 a year
      Right now I am earning $97,000 a year

      Later today I expect to close the deal on a 1+ year contract earning $70 per hour on a W2 (apples to apples comparison would put that at about the equivalent of $132,000 a year) starting 10/15

      Course 16 years of IT experience with specializations in several high demand skillsets can do that for you.

      1. I think my income is up by around $70 – 80K.

        Are we talking per month or per year?

        1. good job ras and RC.

          I guess it pays to be rational….and employed.

          sadly with a few more years of this you two will be the first up against the wall.

    3. I am making approximately $80,000 more than I did in 07.

    4. b) I don’t know of anybody who’s making more, in nominal dollars, than they were in 2007 (that includes me, unfortunately).

      Cough. The oil industry is fun.

  15. “People vote based on what they think is good for the country, not what’s good for themselves.”

    Really? Politics are not local?

    Andrew Gelman is the dumbest pollster ever born.

  16. One should overlay the housing bubble over this map.

    My guess is the red (less land use zoning regulations) did better then the Blue “smart growth” states.

    Simply put in the red states it is still legal to build stuff and they were less impacted by the “zoned zone” land supply restrictions portion of the housing bubble.

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