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Where Work Pays: Occupations & Earnings across the United States

This interactive chart accompanies an economic analysis, “Where Work Pays: How Does Where You Live Matter for Your Earnings?”

Educational and occupational choices matter for your earnings, but where you work matters, too. Employment opportunities and wages in some occupations vary substantially from state to state, county to county, and city to city. One location might be a great place to earn a living as a nurse, but not-so-great as a construction worker (e.g., New Orleans), while in a different place, Utica, New York, for example, it could be exactly the opposite.

For people looking to start or advance their careers, does it make sense to move, and if so, where does it make sense to move to?


1. Start by selecting an occupation, or a larger occupational group. It is important to note that for some occupations, data may be unavailable if there were not enough respondents in the survey who share that occupation in a given place. If this is the case, try selecting a larger occupational grouping.

2. Next, select an age group, or compare across all of the age groups. As with occupations, in some instances, data may be unavailable for some age groups in less common occupations. In response, selecting “All Ages” may provide more options.

3. Adjust earnings to determine cost-of-living and federal and state taxes. Note: taxes are for the year 2018, and reflect the latest tax laws enacted by Congress.

4. Variation across entire states, rather than more fine-grained metropolitan areas, is available by toggling between “Local” and “States” in the “Choose a Geography” section.

5. View the locations with the top three earnings levels (based on the criteria selected above), or click on the map (or use the search function) and compare up to three locations.  Note: the bar graph displayed will compare these locations to the national earnings level.

6. Use the interactive map to hover, zoom in and out, and click around.

NOTE: Data come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2012–16. For more information on methodology, see the technical appendix for the accompanying economic analysis. For details on the construction of the interactive wage bins, see the supplemental technical appendix.

Data analysis by Audrey Breitwieser. Interactive design and development by Becca Portman.