The Highest and Lowest Income Areas in Washington

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Written By Blue & Gold NLR Team





Washington stands out as one of the wealthiest states in the United States, boasting a median household income of $92,629ยน. Nevertheless, income levels vary significantly across different regions within the state. This article delves into both the highest and lowest income areas in Washington, examining the contributing factors to these economic disparities.

Areas With the Highest Income

Drawing on 2010 census data and the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, King County emerges as the leader in per capita income in Washington, boasting $38,211. Home to Seattle, the state’s largest city, King County serves as a major hub for technology, commerce, and culture. Influential companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Boeing contribute to its economic prosperity. Moreover, the county boasts a high level of education, with 37% of adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Other high-income regions in Washington encompass San Juan County ($35,487), Snohomish County ($30,635), Kitsap County ($29,755), and Thurston County ($29,707). These counties, situated primarily in the central or western parts of the state near the Puget Sound or the Pacific Ocean, benefit from proximity to urban centers, natural resources, tourism, and recreation.

Areas With the Lowest Income

Conversely, Pend Oreille County reports the lowest per capita income in Washington, at $19,291. Nestled in the northeast corner of the state, bordering Idaho and Canada, Pend Oreille County is characterized by its rural nature and sparse population of 13,001 residents. The local economy relies heavily on agriculture, forestry, mining, and hydroelectric power. The county also exhibits a lower level of education, with only 16% of adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Other regions with lower income in Washington include Ferry County ($19,324), Adams County ($16,689), Yakima County ($19,325), and Franklin County ($18,660). These counties, predominantly found in the eastern or southern parts of the state, face challenges such as poverty, unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to healthcare and education.

Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality

The income gap in Washington mirrors nationwide trends of economic polarization. A report from the Economic Policy Institute reveals that the top 1% of income earners in Washington captured 21.7% of the total income in the state in 2015, leaving the remaining 78.3% for the bottom 99%. Over time, the income disparity has widened, with the top 1% witnessing a 143.1% growth in income from 1979 to 2015, compared to a modest 18.9% for the bottom 99%.

This income inequality holds significant implications for the social and economic well-being of Washington and its residents. Studies indicate that income inequality correlates with lower levels of health, education, happiness, social mobility, and civic engagement. Conversely, it associates with higher levels of crime, violence, corruption, and environmental degradation. Addressing income inequality in Washington is not only an issue of fairness but also a matter of public interest and the common good.


Washington presents a state of contrasts, featuring both the highest and lowest income areas in the nation. The income inequality in Washington is shaped by various factors, including geography, industry, education, and policy. Moreover, it carries substantial consequences for the quality of life and the future of the state and its people. To mitigate income inequality in Washington, promoting economic opportunities, social justice, and civic participation for all is crucial.


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