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April 15, 2020 – Where you reside has had a major impact on the relative change in prosperity families experience as reflected in the income reported on federal 1040 income tax returns. Using the latest figures reported by the Internal Revenue Service, and comparing these to returns filed a decade earlier, some counties saw a doubling of average adjusted gross incomes while taxpayers in other counties experienced declines.
For the U.S. as a whole, the average adjusted gross income (AGI) reported on a return grew by $16,735, from $55,361 for returns filed during 2008 to $72,096 for those filed in 2018. This translates into a growth rate, not adjusting for inflation, of 30.2 percent.
Individual counties, however, often experienced quite different changes during this same period. The range in dollar change in a county’s respective AGI was as high as $123,096 all the way down to a decline in AGI of -$71,059. In fact, 69 out of the 3,146 counties in the nation experienced a decline in reported AGI.
Surprisingly, the geographic region of Appalachia, which extends from Southeast Ohio and West Virginia south into Kentucky and Tennessee, saw larger percentage gains in AGI, as did parts of Mississippi-two areas of the country with historically high levels of poverty. The Great Plains states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and eastern Colorado, as well as most of Wyoming, however, saw stagnation or considerable decline.
The county with the largest increase in percentage terms was Dixie County, Florida on the Gulf Coast in the northern part of the state where average reported AGI increased from $26,439 on returns filed in 2008 to $103,222 for those filed in 2018 – up 290 percent. This increase in prosperity was not shared by those dependent upon wages and salaries, however, but was restricted to those with large business and investment income.
The county which had the largest dollar gain in AGI over the past decade was New York County (Manhattan) where AGI grew from $103,050 to $226,146 between filing years 2008 and 2018 (up 119.5%). This dollar increase was closely mirrored by Teton County, Wyoming, which in 2018 had the highest AGI among all counties in the country. Teton County experienced an increase in AGI of $122,767 (up 86.4%) over the previous 10 years.
For much more detail, including U.S. county maps and identification of counties with particularly high and low change in specific income sources, see the full report at:
For more details on each of the 3,146 counties in the nation, TRAC has updated its free interactive Taxpayer Returns application with the latest available statistics on income and exemptions reported on federal 1040 income tax returns. This unique tool makes it easy to browse through TRAC’s extensive store of information covering the last quarter century on the constantly shifting types of income that flow to taxpayers in each state and county. Go to:
TRAC has also updated additional tools covering IRS enforcement matters with the latest data on IRS criminal enforcement and audits of individual and corporate returns. To access these additional IRS tools go to:
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The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is a nonpartisan joint research center of the Whitman School of Management (https://whitman.syr.edu) and the Newhouse School of Public Communications (https://newhouse.syr.edu) at Syracuse University.