FILE PHOTO: downtown Boise, Idaho. Photo by Alden Skeie on Unsplash
BOISE – Idaho has emerged as a national leader in median household income growth, boasting a remarkable increase of 15%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018-2022 American Community Survey. This achievement positions Idaho as the top-ranking state for such income growth across the United States. The state also secured the fifth position in the nation with a median household income of $70,214, marking an impressive rise of $9,153 compared to the previous survey conducted from 2013-2017.
The findings, drawn from the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, offer comprehensive multi-year estimates for all 50 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Idaho’s substantial leap in median household income can be attributed in part to the state’s rapid population growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. This surge in population led to an increased demand for entry-level service workers, outstripping the available workforce supply. Consequently, this heightened demand resulted in wage boosts across sectors such as health care and social assistance, accommodations and food service, and education. Additionally, the housing boom driven by the pandemic led to an increased demand for construction workers, further contributing to the wage growth.
The state also witnessed an exodus of retirees from the workforce, both premature and anticipated. This phenomenon exerted upward pressure on wages, as employers sought to retain existing employees and attract new hires. The impact was particularly pronounced in front-facing and lower-tenure jobs characterized by high turnover rates during and after the pandemic.
Governor Brad Little expressed his satisfaction with the news that Idaho ranked first in the nation for household income growth and fifth for median household income.
“The latest rankings for household incomes confirm what many in Idaho already know – our business-friendly atmosphere and commonsense approach to governing translate to prosperity and higher incomes for our citizens,” Gov. Little stated on Thursday. “Time after time, Idaho surges ahead of the competition in economic performance and job growth. I am so proud that what we’re doing in Idaho is working!”
Idaho’s achievement is not isolated, as several other Western states also experienced significant increases in median household income. Labor Economist Jan Roeser suggested that Idaho’s increase may be influenced by remote workers choosing to work in higher-wage states while residing in states with lower wage structures.
Conversely, states with less economic diversity and a robust energy sector, including Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, witnessed a decline in median household wages or low/stagnant wages between the two five-year periods.
As Idaho’s economy continues to expand, most counties are experiencing growth in the middle- and high-income categories. Roeser suggested that Idaho’s lower-paid households may be transitioning to higher income categories, supported by the state’s top ranking in median household income growth.
“High housing costs may be a motivator for low-wage earners to leave the state for more affordable housing,” Roeser said. “People in the higher income brackets are becoming a larger share of Idaho’s total households, with some migrating from other states.”
In a national context, Idaho’s housing unit growth ranks fourth, surpassing all its neighboring states except Utah. The demand for housing remained consistent across the nation during the five-year period, except for West Virginia, which experienced a 3.4% loss of over 30,000 housing units. The District of Columbia, Utah, and Texas lead the nation in housing unit growth rate, with Idaho and Colorado following closely.
Within Idaho, the increase of almost 57,000 housing units between the two five-year periods was predominantly driven by the Boise Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), accounting for 62% of the change. Other urban counties contributing to this growth included Bonneville (9.4% or 1,316 units), Kootenai (11.4% or 7,745 units), and Twin Falls (7.9% or 2,549 units).
Conversely, seventeen smaller, less densely populated, and rural Idaho counties experienced a loss of housing units between the two five-year periods. Among these, Elmore County (-2.2% or -275 units), Fremont County (-2.8% or -249 units), and Lemhi County (-4.5% or -219 units) faced the most significant declines.
More detailed information about this data is available at https://data.census.gov/.