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Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time



Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time

Comparing the Wealth of U.S. Geographic Regions Over Time

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Every year, the average American takes home about $51,600 in personal income.

Of course, what you make each year depends on factors like your job, work ethic, education, and personal circumstances – but it also varies significantly over geography.

The Geographical Wage Gap

Today’s chart uses data from the Brookings Institute, and it focuses on the geographical wage gap, or the difference in per capita income that exists between various U.S. regions.

Interestingly, it’s a gap that has historically narrowed over time.

Just after the Great Depression, income per capita in the Mideast was 50% higher than the average American, and roughly three times higher than in the Southeast. Over the next 50 years, this gap would continue to narrow until reaching its smallest differential by the mid-1980s.

In the last couple of decades, however, the geographical wage gap has shown signs of a potential reversal: per capita incomes in New England, Mideast, and Far West have been increasing relative to the average American wage, while other regions are remaining more stagnant.

The Vitality Index

Wages are just one factor in measuring prosperity, and the Brookings Institute has attempted to create a more well-rounded approach to this with the Vitality Index.

The Vitality Index is comprised of the following variables:

  • Median household income – 45%
  • Poverty rate – 24%
  • Life expectancy – 13%
  • Prime-age employment-to-population ratio – 9%
  • Housing vacancy rate – 5%
  • Unemployment rate – 4%

The following map is directly from the aforementioned report, and it shows the Vitality Index by county, using recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Vitality Index

Which areas have seen the biggest increases and decreases in vitality?

The Great Lakes region, which relies heavily on manufacturing, has seen the most significant drop between 1980-2016, while the Mideast has seen the biggest rise over that same 26 year period.

Cost of Living

One fair point of objection to the analysis of the Vitality Index – or any measure of economic differences between geographic regions – is that cost of living is not taken directly into account.

Here is what the researchers had to say on this:

It would be reasonable to adjust median household income for cost of living, but we opted to not do this for two reasons. First, cost-of-living estimates that are comparable across places are not available for 1980. Second, cost of living may vary for reasons that are directly related to the county vitality we seek to measure. For example, a place with stronger labor demand or better local public goods could attract in-migration that contributes to higher housing prices. Finally, cost of living may reflect the amenity value of a place, and not simply inflated prices for the same goods and services.

No analysis is perfect, but the Vitality Index and historical data on per capita income are interesting to consider when framing any analysis on wages, prosperity, and economic inequality in America.

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Visualizing the Most Sought-After Entry Level Jobs in 2023

Some jobs need a degree, while others don’t. Here are the top 20 most sought-after entry level jobs with and without a degree.



most sought after jobs

The Most Sought-After Entry Level Jobs of 2023

In the fast-paced realm of job hunting, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. And if you are an entry-level job applicant, the pressure is a notch higher.

New entrants in any job market today compete with groundbreaking technology like ChatGPT in addition to their peers. In the United States, these applicants have to also wade through an uncertain labor market, inflation, and long lists of job requirements. has identified the most sought-after entry level positions for applicants both with and without a degree in the U.S., and the year-on-year growth of these job postings.

Most Sought-After Entry-Level Jobs With a Degree

As the U.S. job market recovers from its pandemic slump, some careers are now booming. This in turn has opened up numerous opportunities for entry-level job applicants.

RankJob TitleAverage Annual SalaryChange in Postings
1Outside Sales Representative$60,000+258%
2Transportation Coordinator$47,500+227%
3Quality Auditor$84,500+131%
5Tax Preparer$67,500+123%
6Loan Processor$55,000+100%
7Retention Specialist$50,000+100%
8Network Operations Technician$85,500+94%
9Mental Health Manager$42,000+93%
10Speech-Language Pathologist$60,000+84%
11Geotechnical Engineer$65,000+80%
12Patient Access Manager$90,000+77%
13HR Coordinator$67,500+75%
14Lead Generation Specialist$62,500+73%
15Design Coordinator$55,000+73%
16Pharmaceutical Sales Representative$74,378+71%
17Behavioral Therapist$50,000+68%
18Special Events Coordinator$54,000+67%
19IT Engineer$92,500+67%
20Structural Engineer$90,000+63%

The demand for sales jobs multiplied this year as customer-facing businesses slowly returned to their pre-pandemic levels.

At the top of this list is the job for an Outside Sales Representative. Paying upwards of $60,000, postings for this job have grown by over 250% in a year, making it the most sought-after position for applicants with a degree.

The healthcare industry has secured its place in the top ranks too. Careers including mental health case managers, speech pathologists, behavioral therapists, and patient access managers dominate the Top 20 list.

Let’s not forget about the tech sector. While entry-level network technicians can earn upwards of $85,000 on average, while IT engineers are paid an entry package of over $90,000.

Most Sought-After Entry-Level Jobs Without a Degree

Nearly 65% of the U.S. working population does not have a four-year degree. However, millions of these workers continue to be highly skilled across professions and have a shot at some of the most sought-after entry level jobs in the country.

RankJob TitleAverage Annual SalaryChange in Postings
1Inventory Manager$59,000+189%
2Auto Body Technician$82,500+100%
3Environmental Health and Safety Specialist$65,000+100%
4Salon Manager$41,000+95%
5Drafting Technician$50,000+94%
6Business Analyst$72,500+82%
7Sheet Metal Mechanic$62,140+67%
8Aircraft Maintenance Technician$57,500+64%
9Catering Manager$47,500+56%
10Transportation/Logistics Coordinator$62,500+53%
11Route Sales Representative$50,000+51%
12Rental Agent$45,520+50%
13Distribution Center Coordinator$52,500+47%
14General Maintenance Technician$40,650+46%
15Patient Care Coordinator$43,152+44%
16Forestry Technician$45,760+43%
17Relationship Banker$43,576+43%
18Field Sales Representative$57,018+42%
19Park Ranger$45,912+42%
20Warehouse Receiver$45,000+39%

One example of this job is that of an Inventory Manager. The demand for skilled inventory managers in warehouses and companies post-pandemic has doubled the position’s job share in a year.

One of the highest paying non-degree jobs in this list—Auto Body Technician—can fetch highly-skilled entry-level workers a salary of $82,000 per year.

These jobs don’t seem to require a degree according to Indeed. However, the rising competition for these positions might give the upper edge to applicants with one, especially for jobs on the list such as Business Analyst and Relationship Banker.

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