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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Majority Perception: $50K Middle Income

A new Rasmussen Reports national phone survey finds that 54% of Americans consider someone making $50,000 a year to be "middle-income." Interestingly, 32% of respondents said $50K sounds like "low-income" to them.

1% of respondents consider a person making $50K a year to be "wealthy." That 1% were probably the South Dakotans picking up the phone. Compare the perceptions in the Rasmussen survey to wage realities in South Dakota, and you'll see why: according to
Labor Market Information Center stats from the South Dakota Bureau of Labor, the average annual wage for all occupations in South Dakota is $32,826. The median wage for all SD jobs is $26,771, meaning 50% of us workers make more than that, 50% make less. 75% of us make $38,250 or less... meaning that, in the perception of a third of Americans, well over three quarters of the jobs in South Dakota are low-income jobs.


  1. Cory:

    The truth is that in SD, we can only expect to make $20,000. Any more than that and you've got a great job.

    At my last job, I never made it to $20K...and that was with a 4 yr business degree from DSU and over 10 years of experience. I was one of the better paid employees.

  2. "...in the perception of a third of Americans, well over three quarters of the jobs in South Dakota are low-income jobs."

    What percentage of South Dakotans would call $50,000 "low-income"? Certainly not the same percentage as New Yorkers or Los Angelinos, or even Minneapolitans.

    It costs a lot less to live here in South Dakota than it does in most other places. That offsets the reduced salaries to some extent. But it seems to me that salaries here are disproportionately low, even taking cost of living into account.

    How can we get higher salaries without driving up our cost of living so much that all the gains are lost?

  3. Sure, from here, $50K looks good. But if we're trying to recruit folks from elsewhere, the only folks who will be eager to move here will be the corporate raiders who want to shift their plants and call centers here to exploit our cheap labor until they can wangle a better deal out of Romania or Malaysia.

    Higher wages and higher cost of living: well, other states have figured out how to strike a better balance. SD's average wage is 75% the national average, but our cost of living is 90.5% of the national average. Hmmm....

  4. It's probably a constant effort, as better employers raise the wage rate cause some to leave, which may be fine to let go of the low end jobs as long as the state (and community) keep working to find improved employment. This balance really does seem the most critical thing. I could never have afforded a house in California. Here I love my 50k house, but the shingles aren't free. Some building materials and services are actually more expensive here than CA. But without opportunities for growth people pack up the Uhaul.

  5. It actually costs MORE to live here than most places. We have poor roads, limited labor pools, a hard climate, very low wages and not much hope for any improvement.

    If you take off the rose-colored glasses, you can see that we are backward as you can be and still be part of the United States.

    Houses here cost more than some places in California.


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