States with the best (and worst) pay in 2020

/ 09:01 AM September 29, 2020
To make a good living, it isn’t just the amount you make that matters.

To make a good living, it isn’t just the amount you make that matters.It’s also where in the United States you make that money.

To make a good living, it isn’t just the amount you make that matters. It’s also where in the United States you make that money. Sure, California’s median salary is higher than Wyoming’s, but Californians have to work around 68 hours to afford one month’s rent on a one-bedroom apartment. Meanwhile, Wyomingans work 30 hours to afford rent, which means they have 38 more work hours than Californians to spend (or save) on something other than housing.

In the midst of this pandemic, making sure your salary goes as far as possible matters more than ever. Now isn’t exactly the greatest time to pull up stakes and move from one of the best states to get paid to one of the worst. Curious to know where your state falls in the ranking? Check out Business.org results below. https://www.business.org

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Methodology

For this year’s state rankings, Business.org looked at each state’s median hourly wage as recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It then used info on apartmentlist.com to determine the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in each state.

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After calculating how many hours you’d need to work at the median salary to make the median rent, the states (plus the District of Columbia) were ranked in order of working hours required for rent. Both data points come from May 2019, making the data blissfully pre-COVID. Seeing how COVID impacts these numbers in next year’s report would be interesting.

Key Findings

The Aloha State is gorgeous, but island life comes at a steep price: in Hawaii, you have to work over 68 hours to make rent for a one-bedroom apartment. Compare that hourly rate to North Dakota, the best state to get paid, where you can afford a one-bedroom apartment after just 27 hours of work.

Besides pinpointing the best and worst states, there are a few other interesting facts:

  • A whopping 6 of the top 10 worst states to get paid in are on the East Coast. (Yikes.)
  • In contrast, with the exception of Kentucky, all of the 10 best states to get paid are in the West or Midwest.
  • Just two Southern states made the bottom 10: Florida and Virginia. If you want to live in the South, you’ll get much more bang for your buck in Kentucky.
  • California is the second-worst state in which to get paid, but Oregon and Washington both escaped the bottom 10. If you want to live in a coastal state, the good old Pacific Northwest is recommended.
  • People in the 10 best states have to dedicate less than one week’s full-time salary to paying rent. In contrast, people in the 10 most expensive states dedicate closer to a week and a half of full-time salary to rent a one-bedroom apartment.

Top 10 states with the best pay

Rank-State Annual median wage 1br Rent # of hours worked at median wage to afford median 1br rent
1-North Dakota $42,510 $571 27.9
2-Wyoming $41,650 $614 30.7
3-Iowa $38,280 $603 32.8
4-South Dakota $34,750 $567 33.9
5-Oklahoma $35,730 $600 34.9
6-Montana $36,420 $618 35.3
7-Nebraska $38,390 $653 35.4
8-Kentucky $35,540 $605 35.4
9-Ohio $38,560 $661 35.7
10-Arkansas $32,940 $574 36.2

Bottom 10 states with the worst pay

Rank-State Annual median wage 1br Rent # of hours worked at median wage to afford median 1br rent
1-Hawaii $44,400 $1,456 68.2
2-California $44,180 $1,442 67.9
3-New Jersey $45,000 $1,254 57.9
4-New York $46,680 $1,285 57.3
5-Maryland $45,970 $1,263 57.1
6-Florida $35,850 $975 56.6
7-Massachusetts $50,200 $1,313 54.4
8-Virginia $42,220 $1,065 52.5
9-New Hampshire $41,490 $1,036 51.9
10-Delaware $40,900 $1,003 51

Salaries aren’t everything

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It’s great to bring home a nice check at the end of the day, but especially these days, it’s even better to have as much leftover cash as possible after paying rent. Before setting your sights on the highest-paying job in your field, take a look at where you’re living: a lower salary in the right state might prove more valuable overall.

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TAGS: cost of living by state, cost of living in US, earnings by state, income by state, US states with the best and worst pay in 2020
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