GOBankingRates

States Where It’s Easiest To Go From Middle Class to Upper Class

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The term “class” was first widely used in the 19th century, replacing words like “rank” and “order” to better define how the economy — and money — were actively shaping European social groups. Social class is still used to characterize a group of individuals who occupy the same tier on the economic ladder. Today, social classes are divided into three major groups: working (or lower) class, middle class and upper class.

In a 2017 survey conducted by Gallup, 62% of Americans identified as upper-middle or middle class, contrasting sharply with the mere 2% who identified as upper class. Income plays the largest role in determining class structure; however, the amount of money needed to ascend into a new class can be tricky to nail down. So, how can ambitious, middle-income Americans increase their social mobility?

To find out where it’s easiest to go from middle class to upper class, GOBankingRates analyzed state-by-state changes in different levels of income over the years. For each state, the study found the year-over-year change and the five-year change in the percentage of households with the 2018 median household income, as well as the percentage of households with incomes of $100,000-$149,000, $150,000-$199,999 and $200,000 or more. It’s important to note that “middle class” was defined as an income range of $35,000-$99,999, based on the median household income of $61,937 from the 2018 American Community Survey. GOBankingRates ranked the states by difficulty in moving from middle class to upper class, with the easiest state placed first.

The study’s findings may surprise you — many of the easiest states to reach the upper class are located in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest regions, whereas the hardest states vary widely.

Last updated: Sept. 10, 2020

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1. Washington

  • 2018 median household income: $74,073
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 24.54%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 18.00%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 53.57%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 97.96%
  • Annual expenditures: $67,958.64
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2. Oregon

  • 2018 median household income: $63,426
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 26.27%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 29.17%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 71.05%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 103.03%
  • Annual expenditures: $83,876.88
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3. Utah

  • 2018 median household income: $71,414
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 21.41%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 35.00%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 56.82%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 77.78%
  • Annual expenditures: $58,897.49
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4. Colorado

  • 2018 median household income: $71,953
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 23.14%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 20.69%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 43.86%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 67.31%
  • Annual expenditures: $63,366.84
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5. Idaho

  • 2018 median household income: $55,583
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 18.85%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 35.05%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 66.67%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 90.91%
  • Annual expenditures: $58,040.35
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6. Georgia

  • 2018 median household income: $58,756
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 19.47%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 23.48%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 40.48%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 71.79%
  • Annual expenditures: $55,162.82

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7. California

  • 2018 median household income: $75,277
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 23.22%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 11.41%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 30.88%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 72.22%
  • Annual expenditures: $85,591.15

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8. Minnesota

  • 2018 median household income: $70,315
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 17.51%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 19.46%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 48.08%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 65.22%
  • Annual expenditures: $61,591.34
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9. North Dakota

  • 2018 median household income: $63,837
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 18.79%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 34.62%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 75.00%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 41.67%
  • Annual expenditures: $59,142.38
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10. Arizona

  • 2018 median household income: $59,246
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 19.03%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 19.33%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 46.15%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 65.71%
  • Annual expenditures: $61,162.78
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11. Florida

  • 2018 median household income: $55,462
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 18.11%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 24.53%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 44.44%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 62.16%
  • Annual expenditures: $60,244.42

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12. New Hampshire

  • 2018 median household income: $74,991
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 15.52%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 12.65%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 27.27%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 71.70%
  • Annual expenditures: $65,693.35
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13. Massachusetts

  • 2018 median household income: $79,835
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 19.40%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 5.42%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 25.64%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 67.09%
  • Annual expenditures: $79,774.87
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14. Wisconsin

  • 2018 median household income: $60,773
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 15.95%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 24.80%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 50.00%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 62.07%
  • Annual expenditures: $58,713.82

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15. Hawaii

  • 2018 median household income: $80,212
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 19.01%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 12.92%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 37.14%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 72.88%
  • Annual expenditures: $123,243.91
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16. Arkansas

  • 2018 median household income: $47,062
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 15.44%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 28.41%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 46.15%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 71.43%
  • Annual expenditures: $53,203.66
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17. Tennessee

  • 2018 median household income: $52,375
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 18.23%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 33.33%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 41.94%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 58.62%
  • Annual expenditures: $53,693.45
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18. Michigan

  • 2018 median household income: $56,697
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 17.12%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 21.93%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 44.74%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 67.74%
  • Annual expenditures: $54,917.93
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19. Nebraska

  • 2018 median household income: $59,566
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 15.28%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 29.17%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 51.43%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 56.67%
  • Annual expenditures: $56,142.41
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20. Nevada

  • 2018 median household income: $58,646
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 11.07%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 14.17%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 40.48%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 63.64%
  • Annual expenditures: $62,938.27
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21. North Carolina

  • 2018 median household income: $53,855
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 16.23%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 23.81%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 37.14%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 69.70%
  • Annual expenditures: $58,040.35

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22. Iowa

  • 2018 median household income: $59,955
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 15.65%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 25.00%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 44.12%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 67.86%
  • Annual expenditures: $56,570.98
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23. Kentucky

  • 2018 median household income: $50,247
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 16.76%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 26.26%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 48.15%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 66.67%
  • Annual expenditures: $56,938.32
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24. Ohio

  • 2018 median household income: $56,111
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 16.15%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 24.78%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 41.67%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 60.00%
  • Annual expenditures: $56,815.87

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25. Montana

  • 2018 median household income: $55,328
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 19.68%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 25.49%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 74.07%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 66.67%
  • Annual expenditures: $65,999.47
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26. Pennsylvania

  • 2018 median household income: $60,905
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 15.90%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 19.84%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 37.78%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 54.76%
  • Annual expenditures: $61,713.79
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27. New Jersey

  • 2018 median household income: $81,740
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 14.12%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 1.74%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 20.00%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 47.87%
  • Annual expenditures: $76,162.66
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28. Missouri

  • 2018 median household income: $54,478
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 14.98%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 22.22%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 37.14%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 72.41%
  • Annual expenditures: $54,550.58

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29. Illinois

  • 2018 median household income: $65,030
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 14.50%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 12.14%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 33.33%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 56.60%
  • Annual expenditures: $58,346.47
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30. South Carolina

  • 2018 median household income: $52,306
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 16.81%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 18.45%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 43.75%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 76.92%
  • Annual expenditures: $58,224.02
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31. Maine

  • 2018 median household income: $55,602
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 14.75%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 29.36%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 53.13%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 59.26%
  • Annual expenditures: $71,815.75
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32. Indiana

  • 2018 median household income: $55,746
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 15.54%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 25.45%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 51.61%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 50.00%
  • Annual expenditures: $55,530.17
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33. Texas

  • 2018 median household income: $60,629
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 16.82%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 17.46%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 35.42%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 53.19%
  • Annual expenditures: $56,326.08

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34. New York

  • 2018 median household income: $67,844
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 16.97%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 9.86%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 29.03%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 52.86%
  • Annual expenditures: $82,652.40
krblokhin / Getty Images/iStockphoto

35. Maryland

  • 2018 median household income: $83,242
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 13.20%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 3.30%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 15.91%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 43.68%
  • Annual expenditures: $79,285.08

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36. Rhode Island

  • 2018 median household income: $64,340
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 14.16%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 18.75%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 28.57%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 45.83%
  • Annual expenditures: $72,550.44
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37. Virginia

  • 2018 median household income: $72,577
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 13.57%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 8.44%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 18.31%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 40.79%
  • Annual expenditures: $62,264.81
Cafer Akdeniz / Shutterstock.com

38. Kansas

  • 2018 median household income: $58,218
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 13.41%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 14.88%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 46.15%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 52.94%
  • Annual expenditures: $53,509.78
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39. Alabama

  • 2018 median household income: $49,861
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 15.28%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 19.80%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 37.50%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 53.85%
  • Annual expenditures: $54,489.36

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40. Vermont

  • 2018 median household income: $60,782
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 12.01%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 28.00%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 25.58%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 41.18%
  • Annual expenditures: $70,713.72
JTSorrell / Getty Images

41. Oklahoma

  • 2018 median household income: $51,924
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 14.52%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 22.77%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 43.33%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 55.56%
  • Annual expenditures: $52,713.86
Paola Giannoni / Getty Images/iStockphoto

42. Wyoming

  • 2018 median household income: $61,584
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 7.28%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 6.58%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 37.21%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 68.97%
  • Annual expenditures: $62,448.48
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43. South Dakota

  • 2018 median household income: $56,274
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 13.70%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 29.25%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 53.57%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 31.03%
  • Annual expenditures: $59,081.16
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

44. Connecticut

  • 2018 median household income: $76,348
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 9.91%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 0.60%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 19.23%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 36.26%
  • Annual expenditures: $76,652.45
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45. Mississippi

  • 2018 median household income: $44,717
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 14.57%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 15.29%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 44.00%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 42.86%
  • Annual expenditures: $51,734.28
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46. West Virginia

  • 2018 median household income: $44,097
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 7.44%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 26.97%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 33.33%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 45.00%
  • Annual expenditures: $55,958.74
filo / iStock.com

47. Alaska

  • 2018 median household income: $74,346
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 5.07%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 2.70%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 5.06%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 57.14%
  • Annual expenditures: $78,060.60
aimintang / Getty Images

48. Delaware

  • 2018 median household income: $64,805
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 8.23%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 1.95%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 17.86%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 37.50%
  • Annual expenditures: $65,877.02
sfe-co2 / Getty Images

49. Louisiana

  • 2018 median household income: $47,905
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 6.75%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 9.82%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 29.73%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 37.50%
  • Annual expenditures: $56,877.10
Davel5957 / iStock.com

50. New Mexico

  • 2018 median household income: $47,169
  • Five-year change in:
    • Median household income: 4.99%
    • Households earning $100,000-$149,999: 7.55%
    • Households earning $150,000-$199,999: 16.67%
    • Households earning $200,000 or more: 34.48%
  • Annual expenditures: $54,305.69

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: In order to find the states where it’s easiest to go from middle class to upper class, GOBankingRates found each state’s (1) 2018 median household income, as well as (2) the year-over-year change and (3) the five-year percentage change in median household income. GOBankingRates then found (4) the 2018 percentage of households with incomes between $100,000-$149,000, as well as (5) the year-over-year change and (6) the five-year percentage change in the percentage of households with incomes between $100,000-$149,000; (7) the 2018 percentage of households with incomes between $150,000-$199,999, as well as (8) the year-over-year change and (9) the five-year percentage change in the percentage of households with incomes between $150,000-$199,999; and (10) the 2018 percentage of households with incomes of $200,000-plus, as well as (11) the year-over-year change and (12) the five-year percentage change in the percentage of households with incomes of $200,000-plus, all sourced from the 2013, 2017 and 2018 American community surveys that are conducted by the U.S Census Bureau. GOBankingRates also found each state’s (13) annual expenditures, which were calculated using the 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey and then factored out using the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center’s composite cost-of-living index for each state from the third quarter of 2019. These 13 factors were scored and combined, with the lowest score being the best. Factors No. 1 through No. 3 were weighted 1/2 times, and factor No. 13 was weighted 1 1/2 times. GOBankingRates took middle class to be defined as $35,000-$99,999, based on the 2018 American Community Survey’s median household income of $61,937. All data used to conduct this study was compiled and verified on Dec. 16, 2019.