What Your Salary Is Really Worth in Every State

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map of USA covered with one dollar bill
Photo credit: bCracker/istockphoto

Salary is heavily dependent on where you live. In the Bureau of Economic Analysis' "regional price parity" map of how average wages vary by the state workers call home compared to the rest of the country, Hawaii's is at 118.4, which means goods cost about 18 percent more than the national average; while Mississippi's 86.4 means the dollar is about 14 percent more powerful. With help from Rasmussen College, which compiled Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis data, and even a United Van Lines study of how states gain or lose population, we get a sense of the true costs of living in various states and find out who's making the most out of a paycheck.
Birmingham, Alabama
Photo credit: Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Average salary: $30,390
Adjusted for cost of living: $34,495
Alabama's regional price parity sits at 86.6, or about 13 percent less than the national average. Combined with the lowest property taxes in the country, that takes an average salary that's sixth-lowest in the nation and gives it value higher than the adjusted salaries of 19 other states Including California and Texas.

group of Alaska Brown Bears Fishing Salmon at McNeil River
Photo credit: sarkophoto/istockphoto

Average salary: $44,350
Adjusted for cost of living: $41,410
The good news for Alaskans is that energy-sector jobs and a lack of state income or sales tax boost wages, and the annual Alaska Permanent Fund oil wealth payout gives permanent residents $1,000 to more than $2,000 a year just for living in the state. The bad news? Distance from the lower 48 raises costs on everything from health care to certain foods. Its regional price parity score of 105.4 makes it roughly 5 percent more expensive than the national average and the 10th most-expensive state in the U.S.

Phoenix skyline and cactus
Photo credit: Davel5957/istockphoto

Average salary: $34,170
Adjusted for cost of living: $34,832
With a cost of living 4 percent lower than the national average, Arizona remains good for retirees. But a robust raft of taxes takes a salary that's 23rd in the nation and manages to reduce it to 30th despite giving residents $662 more in value.

hiker on cliff in Ozark Mountains, Arkansas
Photo credit: ABDESIGN/istockphoto

Average salary: $28,910
Adjusted for cost of living: $33,002
Arkansas has the third-lowest property taxes in the nation and a cost of living 13 percent lower than the national average. As a result, an average salary that's the second-lowest in the nation is worth more here than considerably higher paychecks are in Montana, Florida, and Hawaii.

coastal oceanside California from above
Photo credit: Art Wager/istockphoto

Average salary: $38,920
Adjusted for cost of living: $34,473
The cost of living in California is 13 percent higher than the national average, making California one of the worst bargains in the country. While property taxes are part of that equation, hosting some of the most expensive cities in the country doesn't help.

Colorado Rocky Mountains on The Dallas Divide
Photo credit: Gary Gray/istockphoto

Average salary: $37,530
Adjusted for cost of living: $36,939
Colorado has the ninth-highest average salary in the country, but even a cost of living that's 3 percent higher than the national average only pushes that salary to 10th on the list. The tax base doesn't include exorbitant property taxes, which certainly helps.

Milford, Connecticut
Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

Average salary: $42,280
Adjusted for cost of living: $38,647
Caught between Metro New York (where prices are 131 percent higher than the U.S. average) and Greater Boston (41 percent higher), Connecticut is unsurprisingly pricey. The cost of living here is about 9 percent higher than the national average, with property taxes ranking second in the country behind only New Jersey.

Delaware Water Gap
Photo credit: Alex Potemkin/istockphoto

Average salary: $37,320
Adjusted for cost of living: $36,481
Delaware's cost of living is roughly on par with the national average, which says all you need to know about living in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Delaware has no sales tax and one of the lowest property tax bills in the region, yet is still more expensive than about 36 other states in the union.

aerial of Fort Lauderdale Beach
Photo credit: Art Wager/istockphoto

Average salary: $30,660
Adjusted for cost of living: $31,032
Florida starts out with the eighth-lowest average salary in the nation, but sinks to dead last once factoring in the cost of living — though on par with the national average, surprisingly high considering there is no tax on income or retirement benefits.

Savannah, Georgia
Photo credit: Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Average salary: $32,510
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,337
Georgia not only makes more than neighboring Florida, but keeps a lot more as well. Though Georgia salaries rank in the bottom half of the country, adjusting them for a cost of living that is roughly 2 percent lower than the national average gives those salaries more value than higher salaries in New Jersey and New York.

Honolulu Hawaii beyond Diamond Head
Photo credit: Art Wager/istockphoto

Average salary: $36,910
Adjusted for cost of living: $31,493
A cost of living that's nearly 18.5 percent higher than the national average doesn't tell the whole story. Taxes here can be steep, but so can owning property on the islands and getting just about anything to them. Costs in Honolulu are already 88 percent higher than the national average, which drops the value of the 15th-highest average salary in the country to second-lowest just ahead of Florida.

Boise, Idaho
Photo credit: vkbhat/istockphoto

Average salary: $30,540
Adjusted for cost of living: $32,628
The biggest bargain in the Pacific Northwest, Idaho is about 7 percent cheaper than the national average. Its largest city, Boise, is 8 percent less expensive than the national average and almost 50 percent cheaper than Seattle.

Chicago skyline at dusk
Photo credit: S. Greg Panosian/istockphoto

Average salary: $35,507
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,720
Chicago's cost of living is still 23 percent higher than the U.S. average, but Illinois falls about 1 percent lower than the national mark. Still, that puts an Illinois salary on par with one in Kansas when factoring in the cost of living, while also placing it below nearby Missouri, Wisconsin, and Iowa in terms of value.

farm in Indiana
Photo credit: Maksymowicz/istockphoto

Average salary: $31,990
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,115
Indiana provides a roughly 10 percent discount from the national average and outpaces North Carolina, New York, and California for overall salary value. Even with that bump, it still ranks among the bottom half of the country for overall salary.

corn crop and Iowa farm at harvest time
Photo credit: Ron_Thomas/istockphoto

Average salary: $32,380
Adjusted for cost of living: $36,179
It costs about 10 percent less to live here than in the rest of the country, but the fact that Iowa's cost of living makes its average salary higher than those in Virginia or Pennsylvania should be a point of pride.

field of yellow sunflowers in Kansas
Photo credit: tomofbluesprings/istockphoto

Average salary: $32,110
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,717
On paper, this looks good. Kansas' cost of living is 9.5 percent less than that of the national average, and its adjusted salary is higher than that of Illinois, Georgia, New York, and California. But when neighboring Missouri's cost of living is 10.5 percent lower than the national average and its adjusted salary is about $1,000 higher, it certainly doesn't strengthen Kansas' argument for having the better Kansas City.

mare with her colt on pastures of horse farms in Kentucky, Lexington
Photo credit: volgariver/istockphoto

Average salary: $31,220
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,158
Kentucky has the fifth-lowest cost of living in the country, at 12 percent lower than the national average. That is how an average salary that sits in the bottom 12 in the country vaults into the Top 25 (above New York and California) after being adjusted for cost of living.

French Quarter, New Orleans
Photo credit: Photoservice/istockphoto

Average salary: $31,260
Adjusted for cost of living: $34,201
It certainly helps that Louisiana's average annual property tax ($976) is the fourth-lowest in the country. But a cost of living 10 percent lower than the national average makes just about everything a little cheaper in Louisiana, while stretching its average salary farther than in neighboring Texas or Mississippi.

Portland Head lighthouse
Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

Average salary: $33,400
Adjusted for cost of living: $33,978
Maine is home to the lowest cost of living in all of New England, coming in at roughly 2 percent less than the national average. But even adjusted to include that cost of living, average salaries are second-lowest in the region ahead of only New Hampshire.

Baltimore, Maryland skyline
Photo credit: Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Average salary: $40,710
Adjusted for cost of living: $36,577
Yes, it's still less expensive than Washington, D.C. Though Maryland's cost of living is 9.5 percent higher than the national average, that's below D.C.'s 16 percent. That said, it still has a higher cost of living than nearby Virginia, Pennsylvania, or Delaware despite also having a higher average salary after adjusting for those costs.

The Berkshires, Massachusetts
Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

Average salary: $43,830
Adjusted for cost of living: $40,886
This is where insufferable New England Patriots fans have a point: They hate us because they ain't us. Massachusetts has the seventh-highest cost of living in the country, 7.8 percent higher than the national average. But even after factoring in those costs, it has the second-highest salary of any state in the country behind only Alaska.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Michigan
Photo credit: RudyBalasko/istockphoto

Average salary: $34,670
Adjusted for cost of living: $36,727
The cost of living here is 7 percent lower than the national average, which helps The Mitten to the third-highest salary in the Great Lakes region. Only workers in Minnesota and Ohio bring home more.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photo credit: GeorgePeters/istockphoto

Average salary: $37,390
Adjusted for cost of living: $38,349
Minnesota just misses the top 10 for average salary, but makes the cut easily after factoring in cost of living. At 2.5 percent less than the national average, cost of living even makes its largest metro area fairly accessible. Minneapolis-St. Paul is roughly 5 percent more costly than the national average, but roughly 20 percent less than of the cost of living in Chicago.

Mississippi River near the Vicksburg Bridge in Vicksburg, Mississippi
Photo credit: Tiago_Fernandez/istockphoto

Average salary: $28,240
Adjusted for cost of living: $32,685
At 14 percent less than the national average, Mississippi has the lowest cost of living in the country. Property taxes are third-lowest in the country, at $938. While the state's average salary is also the lowest, people in Mississippi are better off than counterparts in Montana, Idaho, Hawaii, and Florida once factoring in cost of living.

green soybean fields in Missouri aerial view
Photo credit: marekuliasz/istockphoto

Average salary: $32,340
Adjusted for cost of living: $36,708
Missouri is indeed cheaper than Kansas, with a 10.5 percent discount on the average cost of living in the United States with a cost-of-living adjustment. And it ranks among the top 15 salaries in the country, and ahead of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia.

Glacier National Park, Montana
Photo credit: HaizhanZheng/istockphoto

Average salary: $30,770
Adjusted for cost of living: $32,665
Montana ranks in the country's bottom 10 for salary and salaries adjusted for cost of living — particularly impressive considering there's no sales tax and a cost of living that's nearly 6 percent below the national average. Montana gets plenty of breaks, but not all that big a paycheck to start with.

Dismal River, Nebraska
Photo credit: marekuliasz/istockphoto

Average salary: $31,840
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,339
There's a reason Warren Buffett is still a Nebraskan. With a cost of living 9.5 percent lower than the national average (and property tax exemptions for folks over 65), a salary ranking among the bottom 15 suddenly ranks in the top 25, ahead of Georgia, New Jersey, New York, and California.

valley of Fire panoramic road, Nevada
Photo credit: bluebeat76/istockphoto

Average salary: $33,350
Adjusted for cost of living: $33,961
With no income tax and a cost of living that's leveled out to 2.6 percent less than the national average after being slammed by the housing crisis, Nevada is starting to look like a steal. The cost of living in either Reno or Las Vegas is on par with the national average and less than most cities farther west. But even after adjustment, that salary is the 12th lowest in the nation.

autumn in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire
Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

Average salary: $35,800
Adjusted for cost of living: $33,710
If you ever hear someone say they're moving to New Hampshire to escape Massachusetts taxes, be skeptical. Despite lacking sales or income taxes, New Hampshire's cost of living is 6 percent higher than the national average and not all that much less than Massachusetts' 7.8 percent. Meanwhile, that adjusted salary is not only $7,000 lower than that earned in Massachusetts, but the 11th-lowest in the country compared with Massachusetts' second-highest. Also, New Hampshire's property taxes rank higher than those in Massachusetts.

Cape May Beach, New Jersey
Photo credit: sparhawk4242/istockphoto

Average salary: $40,250
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,276
Anyone who lives here can tell you they're getting crushed. Property taxes are the highest in the country, at an average of more than $8,000, and the cost of living is 13 percent higher than the nationwide average, soaring for New Jerseyans who live closer to Philadelphia (with a cost of living 16 percent higher than the national average) or New York City (131 percent higher). Roughly 63 percent of the people who moved in New Jersey last year moved out.

Labyrinth at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Photo credit: Adam-Springer/istockphoto

Average salary: $31,490
Adjusted for cost of living: $33,217
Well, it's 6 percent cheaper than the national average, but also has the lowest salary in the Southwest even when adjusted for cost of living. Even factoring in the discount, it's the eighth-lowest average salary in the country overall.

aerial view of Lower Manhattan
Photo credit: Eloi_Omella/istockphoto

Average salary: $40,460
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,061
New York is notorious for tracking down every penny of its tax dollars and for packing enough people into the metro area to make it more than twice as expensive as the national average. (Statewide, the cost of living is 16 percent higher.) As a result, roughly two-thirds of all moving trucks in the state are on their way out.

downtown Asheville skyline flowers in spring
Photo credit: jaredkay/istockphoto

Average salary: $31,150
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,098
Where are all those people leaving New York and New Jersey going? Ask someone from North Carolina, one of the top East Coast states for inbound moves. The cost of living is about 9 percent less than the national average, while the adjusted salary here goes farther than a salary about $9,000 greater in New York.

bison on the landscape of in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Photo credit: ericfoltz/istockphoto

Average salary: $35,640
Adjusted for cost of living: $39,425
Take Alaska's oil money, put it in a tiny state in the contiguous United States and you get North Dakota. With a cost of living 8.5 percent below the national average and an average salary that ranks among the top 20 in the country even before adjustment, it's little surprise that North Dakota's low costs have given its salary value that ranks behind only Alaska, Massachusetts, and Washington.

Cleveland, Ohio
Photo credit: Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Average salary: $33,730
Adjusted for cost of living: $37,814
Ohio's average salary is middle of the pack, but gets a boost into the top 10 once factoring in just how inexpensive it is to live there: 11 percent lower than the national average, with even the cost of living in Cleveland falling around the average mark. That isn't stopping folks from leaving, though; Ohio also ranks among the top 10 for outbound moves.

old windmill and modern wind turbines in Oklahoma
Photo credit: cstar55/istockphoto

Average salary: $30,730
Adjusted for cost of living: $34,182
Any way you measure it, Oklahoma falls among the bottom half of U.S. salaries. But with a cost of living 11 percent lower than the national average, Oklahoma's average salary is worth more than a bigger average paycheck in Texas.

Columbia River from Rowena Crest Viewpoint Oregon
Photo credit: 4nadia/istockphoto

Average salary: $35,850
Adjusted for cost of living: $36,285
Oregon's cost of living falls just a little shy of the national average, but that's all that many people in costlier parts of the country need to hear. With no sales tax and an average salary that exceeds that of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Utah, Oregon is winning converts; 65 percent of moves are inbound.

beautiful Philadelphia downtown skyline at sunset
Photo credit: f11photo/istockphoto

Average salary: $35,320
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,785
When you're next to some of the costliest states in the nation, a cost of living 1.4 percent below the national average only seems cheap. Adjusted for that cost of living, Pennsylvania's average salary exceeds those of New York and New Jersey.

Pawtuxet Village, Rhode Island
Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/istockphoto

Average salary: $37,500
Adjusted for cost of living: $37,994
Rhode Island's cost of living is on par with the national average, but only looks like a bargain wedged between Connecticut and Massachusetts. That said, even after adjusting for that cost of living, a Rhode Island salary is worth less than what people in either of those neighboring states take home on average. That isn't helpful when property taxes aren't much less than theirs.

horse carriage in Charleston, South Carolina
Photo credit: TriggerPhoto/istockphoto

Average salary: $30,280
Adjusted for cost of living: $33,385
Yet another state folks from the Northeast are flocking to for a bit of relief. South Carolina's cost of living is 10 percent below the national average, but it pays to have some out-of-state money to start with. Its average salary is the fifth-lowest in the country, while even its adjusted income ranks amid the bottom 10 — lower than any state in the Northeast.

buffalos in South Dakota
Photo credit: tonda/istockphoto

Average salary: $29,420
Adjusted for cost of living: $33,356
A lot of RV owners declare residency in South Dakota largely for the lack of income tax. If they actually lived there, they'd find a cost of living 12 percent lower than the national average, but also an average salary that's fourth-lowest in the country and ninth-lowest even after adjusting for that low cost of living.

scenic summer sunset along cliffline in Tennessee
Photo credit: aheflin/istockphoto

Average salary: $30,990
Adjusted for cost of living: $34,168
It costs 10 percent less to live here than the national average, which means a lot even when you're working with little. Tennessee's average salary is low, but factor in that cost of living and it's better than in Texas, Maine, Nevada, or New Hampshire.

horse with Fort Worth in the background
Photo credit: tmarvin/istockphoto

Average salary: $32,880
Adjusted for cost of living: $34,073
Texas has no income tax, for all the good that does it. You'd think that, combined with a cost of living 3 percent lower than the national average, would amount to more. But a fairly low average wage for a state this large, coupled with better deals elsewhere, makes Texas' adjusted salary less valuable than those of Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arizona, and California.

Salt Lake City aerial view
Photo credit: ferrantraite/istockphoto

Average salary: $33,280
Adjusted for cost of living: $34,380
At about 3 percent less costly than the national average, Utah feels like it should fare better than it does. But while it exceeds Idaho, Nevada, and Montana, its average salary is trounced by Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, California, and Wyoming for best in the West.

autumn colors with farm in the Green Mountains, Vermont
Photo credit: Ron_Thomas/istockphoto

Average salary: $35,380
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,064
Vermont's cost of living is actually 1.6 percent higher than the national average, but that hasn't stopped 68 percent of all moves within that state being inbound. When your state is both cheaper and less populated than most of the states around it — and has an adjusted salary higher than New York, Maine, or New Hampshire — it's clear why the Green Mountain State has been making a lot of friends.

waterfall Hole at Meadow Farms, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Photo credit: BCWH/istockphoto

Average salary: $36,960
Adjusted for cost of living: $35,814
It's 2.3 percent more costly than the national average, but that's a deal in these parts, where Maryland, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey are all fairly pricey, and Delaware and Pennsylvania aren't much cheaper. The cost of living knocks Virginia's average salary down five spots and still puts it roughly on par with Delaware or Pennsylvania.

Mt. Rainier, Washington
Photo credit: RomanKhomlyak/istockphoto

Average salary: $40,910
Adjusted for cost of living: $39,614
Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nintendo, Boeing: Yes, Seattle has a few big-money companies you may have heard of. It also has no income tax to chip away at the fourth-highest average salary of any state in the country. Even with a cost of living 5.5 percent higher than the national average, Washington's adjusted salary manages to climb to third-highest among states.

Dolly Sods, West Virginia
Photo credit: tomwachs/istockphoto

Average salary: $29,040
Adjusted for cost of living: $32,777
Why are people from Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia considering commuting from here? Property taxes are the second-lowest in the country at $792, and the overall cost of living is fourth-lowest at 12 percent below the national average.

rural agricultural landscape in Wisconsin
Photo credit: JamesBrey/istockphoto

Average salary: $33,950
Adjusted for cost of living: $36,945
While Wisconsin's cost of living is 7 percent below the national average and its adjusted salary eclipses that of Illinois, it still trails Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio in salary even after cost of living adjustment.

bison crossing the river at Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park
Photo credit: JurgaR/istockphoto

Average salary: $36,990
Adjusted for cost of living: $38,371
It's a state with a population smaller than some cities, but that lack of infrastructure and income tax keeps costs down. Wyoming's cost of living is 3 percent lower than the national average, but energy company wealth keeps salaries among the top in the country. Factor in that cost of living, and Wyoming's salary is sixth-highest among all states.

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