This Shocking Map Shows How Much Money It Takes To Be “Middle Class” In Each State

This is nuts.

Originally Published: 
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Are you a member of the middle class? Do you just think you are or do you know you are? While some might argue that being middle-class is more about a set of behaviors and beliefs than an actual income marker, a new map promises to tell you where you stand once and for all.

The map, compiled by SmartAsset, shows what it takes to be middle-class in each state, and it’s an eye-opening look at just how much you need to make to be considered in that financial group — and just how much the middle class has shrunk over the past years.

After all, a 2022 Pew Research Center analysis of government data found that the share of adults in middle-class households dropped from 61% in 1971 to 50% in 2021. But while a middle-class income might look like one thing in one state, it could look entirely different in states with higher — or lower — living costs. And the highest middle-class incomes in your state might be as far as $100,000 from the lowest middle-class incomes, marking a broad difference in financial experience.

To determine what “middle class” was in each state, SmartAsset looked at Census Bureau's 2021 one-year American Community Survey data and determined the median household income for each state.

“We relied on a variation of the Pew Research definition of middle-income households, which defines a middle-class salary range by two-thirds to double the median U.S. salary,” SmartAsset explains. “We used the local median salary for states and large cities to account for the diversity of financial realities among locales.”

The states where you need to earn most to be considered “middle-class”:

  1. Maryland — lower limit $60,436.01, upper limit $180,406
  2. District Of Columbia — lower limit $60,358.96, upper limit $180,176
  3. Massachusetts — lower limit $60,062.15, upper limit $179,290
  4. New Jersey — lower limit $59,828.32, upper limit $178,592
  5. New Hampshire — lower limit $59,271.55, upper limit $176,930
  6. California — lower limit $56,887.69, upper limit $169,814
  7. Hawaii — lower limit $56,854.19, upper limit $169,714
  8. Washington — lower limit $56,445.49, upper limit $168,494
  9. Connecticut — lower limit $56,126.57, upper limit $167,542
  10. Colorado lower limit $55,110.18, upper limit $164,508
  11. Virginia — lower limit $54,245.21, upper limit $161,926
  12. Utah — lower limit $53,230.83, upper limit $158,898
  13. Alaska — lower limit $52,156.15, upper limit $155,690
  14. Minnesota — lower limit $52,072.40, upper limit $155,440
  15. New York — lower limit $49,790.38, upper limit $148,628

SmartAsset also put this data into an easy-to-read map, and there were some interesting takeaways from the collected data. For one, the top 10 highest middle-class salary ranges are all in the Northeast.

“The top-placing Northeastern states cost roughly 50% more to live in than the low-ranking Southern states,” SmartAsset notes, “the middle-class salary range sits about 70% higher.”

Additionally, tech-industry-heavy cities are hard to live in if you want to attain middle-class status. The San Francisco Bay Area in California accounts for 3 of the top 5 cities with the highest income threshold.

To read the full report, check out SmartAsset.

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