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Does the local economy influence voters?

A look at state median household income growth

The health of our local economy affects our outlook, which in turn can affect our decisionmaking, including how we cast our votes. Some classic research shows the economy is an important factor in national elections; and some newer research specifically links disposable income and military casualties to election results.

FRED has data to help you traverse the economic landscape during elections. This map shows the growth rate of median U.S. household income state by state.

  1. Median is defined as the value at which half the households are above and half below. In a majority election, for example, the median voter would be the determining factor. We look at households here, which obviously could include several voters.
  2. We transformed the raw data on household income to a growth rate, to show how things have changed from the previous year. (By the way, these data are nominal and, thus, include general inflation.)

The darker the color, the more growth—and, in simplified terms, the likelier it is an incumbent politician will be re-elected. Now, at the time of posting, the latest data we have is for 2018. To see how incomes grew for previous years, click on the View in GeoFRED link to get to all the mapping tools: The legend box has arrows that let you move from year to year, all the way back to 1990, which includes seven U.S. presidential elections.

How this map was created: Search FRED for “median household income” and click on the series from any state. Below the graph, in the Related Content section, click the GeoFRED map. Then zoom out to see the entire country. Finally, use the cogwheel in the upper left to change the units to percentage change from previous year.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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