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Top of the Middle

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | November 2, 2020 1:00 AM

A recent study ranked Idaho as the second-best state for the middle class, for the second year in a row.

The study, published by personal finance technology company SmartAsset, compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across seven metrics.

“Middle class” was defined as households that earn approximately two-thirds to two times the median national income, which was $68,703 in 2019. In Idaho, 49.9% of households are in the middle class — the sixth-highest percentage in the nation.

Other metrics included median home value, homeownership rates and Gini coefficient, which is a measure of the distribution of income across a population. The study also considered median household income and middle-class job growth over a four-year period.

“We have strong evidence from people’s revealed preferences that this is a highly attractive state to live in,” said North Idaho Regional Labor Economist Sam Wolkenhauer.

Almost 80,000 people moved to Idaho in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Moving marketplace HireAHelper reported that 194% more people have moved into Idaho than left the state since March.

“Idaho is consistently at the top of the charts for destination states and population growth,” Wolkenhauer said.

Though the term “best” is subjective, he said, Idaho’s rate of population growth is evidence that many people view the Gem State as a desirable place to live.

The median household income in Idaho rose by about 26% between 2015 and 2019 — more than any state — from about $48,000 to almost $61,000.

Idaho’s Gini coefficient is just over 0.43, which SmartAsset said is the second-best in the nation.

The Gini coefficient is usually a number between zero and one. A country with a Gini index of zero, for example, is one where income is equally distributed across the entire population. In a country with a Gini coefficient of one, income is concentrated in a single individual.

Though the Midwest dominated the list, making up half the top 10 states in 2020, both Idaho and Washington ranked highly. Washington came in at 10. Oregon ranked 14 on SmartAsset’s list, while Montana came in at 22.

According to SmartAsset, the top five states for the middle class are Utah, Idaho, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, while the bottom five are Oklahoma, New Mexico, Connecticut, Louisiana and New York.