Skip to content

Best Rated States for Earning a Living

Illinois or Texas may give workers more bang for their buck

En español | After months or years of job hunting, are you convinced that the state that you live in may be holding you back from better career options? Relocating may help increase your chances of finding a job, but evaluate your situation before you take that leap. You may be unaware of some of the hidden perks that your state has to offer.

See also: Sign up for the Money Newsletter.

Personal finance website chose the following factors to analyze when compiling its top 10 list of best states for earning a living:

  • Average wage
  • Unemployment rate
  • State tax rate
  • Cost of living 


The factors were calculated to form an adjusted average income for each state — the average income adjusted for your likelihood of finding a job, the amount you would lose to state taxes and how much buying power your income would allow you to have in that state. The average across all states was $35,960.

People crowd around Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate" in Chicago's Millenium Park.

Karsten Moran/Aurora Photos

You can earn a good living in Illinois and visit "Cloud Gate" in Chicago's Millenium Park.


Despite the unemployment rate reaching a two-year low at 8.8 percent, older workers, especially women, face a slight rise in joblessness. It may be advantageous for some job seekers to determine whether they are living in a state that offers a better chance of finding a job, or if they can easily work a move into their retirement plans.


See the top 10 best-rated states for earning a living. >>

Here are's 10 best states for earning a living, as well as each state's corresponding annual adjusted average income:


Average Income


1. Illinois $41,987
The unemployment rate isn't low, but the state benefits from relatively high average wages, a low state tax rate and a below-average cost of living.
2. Washington
$41,456 The cost of living may be above average, but so is the typical income, and with no state income tax, you'll keep more of what you earn.
3. Texas
Texas has no income tax, along with a relatively low cost of living and unemployment rate.
4. Virginia $41,120 Virginia has high average wages and a relatively low unemployment rate.
5. Delaware
Delaware's strength is its high average wages.
The high cost of living in Massachusetts is counterbalanced by the highest average wage levels of any state.
7. Georgia
$38,228 A combination of a low cost of living, solid average wages and great banks help Georgia rank high.
8. Tennessee
$38,038 A very low cost of living helps Tennessee overcome relatively low wage levels. The state's taxes don't apply to wages, so you'll keep more of what you make.
9. Colorado
$38,020 High average wages and a reasonable state tax burden helped Colorado make the list.
10. Minnesota
$37,722 Minnesota has relatively high average wages and below-average unemployment.

Didn't see your state? Check out the 10 toughest states for making a living.