Best and worst states for the middle class

Although the middle class is shrinking, there are a handful of states where middle-income families continue to thrive.

But first, what is considered middle class? The Pew Research Center defines "middle-income households" as those with an income that is two-thirds to double the U.S. median household income. And two of the biggest concerns for middle-income families are securing a good education for their kids and being able to afford housing.

With that in mind, GOBankingRates determined the best and worst states to live on a middle-class income by analyzing the following data in each state:

  • Income trends: This includes the change in median household incomes of middle-class families and the change in the proportion of households earning the middle-class income.
  • Higher education trends: This includes the college graduation rate, as well as tuition and fees, and the five-year change in tuition.
  • Housing trends: Lastly, this factor includes the median home list price, the estimated monthly mortgage payment and the homeownership rate.

Click through for the full methodology and to see if you live in one of the best places to raise a family on a middle-class income.

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The best and worst states for America's middle class
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The best and worst states for America's middle class

50. Hawaii

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,529
  • Median household income change of middle class: -3.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,670
  • College graduation rate: 45.9%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $2,594
  • Homeownership rate: 53.7%

Hawaii is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., so it's not too surprising it's the worst state for the middle class.

Hawaii ranks lowest on the list thanks to its extremely high cost of homeownership. The state had the highest median home price of any state at $600,000, as well as the highest mortgage down payment ($120,000) and monthly mortgage payment ($2,594). Because of the high real estate prices, Hawaii also had the second-lowest percentage of homeowners. 

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49. Massachusetts

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $77,965
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.66%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,280
  • College graduation rate: 70.9%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,782
  • Homeownership rate: 59.2%

The middle class is definitely shrinking in Massachusetts. The state saw the highest drop in the proportion of middle-income households of any in the country between 2010 and 2015. It's also difficult for middle-class households to afford a home in Massachusetts. With a median list price of $409,900, it's one of the most expensive states to buy a home.

On the plus side, it has the highest college graduation rate in the country and an above-average median household income for the middle class. 

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48. California

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,197
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,350
  • College graduation rate: 66.3%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $2,155
  • Homeownership rate: 53.8%

California is home to three of the most expensive cities in the country, all of which require more than the median middle-class income to live comfortably, found a separate GOBankingRates study.

Additionally, it ranks among the worst states for the middle class to live. It's one of the most expensive states to own a home, with the median list price for homes at $499,000. Because of the high home prices, it also has the second-highest monthly mortgage payment.

However, there is good news when it comes to college expenses in California — in-state college tuition has decreased nearly 2 percent in the past five years. It's one of only three states to see a drop in tuition prices. 

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47. New York

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,227
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,710
  • College graduation rate: 61%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,503
  • Homeownership rate: 50.7%

New York has the lowest homeownership rate in the country (not including Washington, D.C.) at only 50.7 percent. While state-wide the median list price for a home is $339,900, it's higher in New York City — which likely contributes to the low percentage of homeowners. In fact, the Big Apple is one of the top 20 cities where home prices are skyrocketing

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46. New Jersey

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,768
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $13,560
  • College graduation rate: 64.8%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,319
  • Homeownership rate: 63.8%

Middle-class families might struggle to pay for college in New Jersey, where the in-state tuition and fees are among the highest in the nation. Tuition prices in the state have increased 5.8 percent over the last five years. Despite high tuition prices, New Jersey does have a relatively high percentage of college graduates.

Can You Afford It? See How Much You Need to Earn to Afford College in Your State 

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45. Colorado

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,364
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,260
  • College graduation rate: 54%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,740
  • Homeownership rate: 66.6%

In Colorado, the median household income of the middle class is shrinking while home values are rising, making it tough for middle-class families to keep up. The median list price for a home in Colorado is $399,500, one of the highest in the nation. And, the estimated mortgage down payment ($79,900) is more than the median household income of middle-class families in the state.

There is some good news for Colorado residents who already own a home, though: Median home values have risen 56.9 percent in the last five years.

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44. Rhode Island

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,908
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $11,410
  • College graduation rate: 67.5%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,323
  • Homeownership rate: 54.4%

Rhode Island ranks low for middle-class living due to a few different factors. The state has one of the largest drops in the proportion of households that are middle income, high in-state tuition and fees, and one of the lowest homeownership rates. Providing a desirable standard of living, including a home and a higher education, might be difficult to do in Rhode Island on a middle-class income. 

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43. Connecticut

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $78,262
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $11,730
  • College graduation rate: 67.5%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,323
  • Homeownership rate: 66.4%

Connecticut has the second-highest median household income of middle-class families in the country — but it might not be enough to keep up with cost of living in the state.

Connecticut has the fourth-largest drop in the proportion of the population made up by middle-income households between 2010 and 2015. It's also the state where median home values are rising the least: Values have only risen 6.7 percent in the last five years. 

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42. Louisiana

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,928
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,900
  • College graduation rate: 47.9%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $910
  • Homeownership rate: 67.1%

Although in-state tuition in Louisiana is relatively low, the cost of sending a child to college in the state is eating up a lot more of a middle-class family's income. Louisiana has the largest increase in the cost of tuition over the last five years, with costs rising 59.3 percent. Fortunately, the cost of owning a home there is still relatively low compared to the U.S. as a whole. 

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41. Virginia

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,999
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,320
  • College graduation rate: 63.4%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,301
  • Homeownership rate: 67.5%

Virginia is also seeing a decline in middle-class residents. With a 5.4 percent drop in the proportion of middle-income households, the state is tied with California for the seventh-largest drop in the country. Virginia also has the seventh-highest in-state tuition and fees, which means some middle-class families might struggle to afford a college education for their children. 

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40. Alaska

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $80,230
  • Median household income change of middle class: -1.8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,130
  • College graduation rate: 32.1%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,226
  • Homeownership rate: 66.5%

Alaska has the highest median household income of middle-class families, and one of the lowest negative income changes over the last 15 years. However, many middle-class families might miss out on seeing their kids earn a college diploma, as the state has the lowest college graduation rate in the country at 32.1 percent.

Another strike against middle-class living in this state is the fact that home values haven't risen much in the last five years: only 12 percent, the eighth-lowest increase in the study. 

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39. Nevada

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,589
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,910
  • College graduation rate: 32.6%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,290
  • Homeownership rate: 56.2%

Middle-class homeowners in this state are seeing the values of their homes skyrocket, with median home values increasing 80.9 percent over the last five years — the largest increase in the country.

Unfortunately, not many people in the state are homeowners. The homeownership rate in Nevada is the fifth-lowest in the country at only 56.2 percent. 

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38. Illinois

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,257
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $13,280
  • College graduation rate: 60%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $969
  • Homeownership rate: 64.2%

Illinois experienced one of the largest median household income drops among the middle class. Additionally, it might be hard for middle-class families here to pay for college, as Illinois has the fifth-highest in-state tuition and fees. 

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37. New Hampshire

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,647
  • Median household income change of middle class: -3.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $15,650
  • College graduation rate: 61.6%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,220
  • Homeownership rate: 72.3%

New Hampshire's median household income for middle-class families is high, but the state loses points for middle-class livability due to the high cost of in-state tuition. In fact, New Hampshire has the most expensive in-state tuition and fees in the entire country.

It also has a diminishing middle class — the state experienced the fifth-largest decrease in the proportion of middle-income households between 2010 and 2015 of any state in the U.S., found the study. 

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36. Georgia

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,845
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,450
  • College graduation rate: 38.7%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,016
  • Homeownership rate: 61.6%

Georgia ranks low on the list of the best states for the middle-class because of the high drop in median household income of middle-class families between 1999 and 2014. Between those years, the median income dropped nearly 9 percent — the fourth-highest drop in the country.

The state also ranks low due to its low college graduation rate. At 38.7 percent, the state has the third-lowest rate in the country. 

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35. Oregon

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,971
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.9%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,690
  • College graduation rate: 60.2%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,536
  • Homeownership rate: 60.4%

The 2014 median household income of middle-class families living in Oregon is relatively low, which puts the state low on the list for middle-class living. It also experienced a relatively high-percent change in median income between 1999 and 2014.

However, the state has a relatively high college graduation rate (60.2 percent) that keeps it from ranking lower. It also has a high median home value change, with home values rising nearly 60 percent between August 2012 and August 2017.

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34. Maryland

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $77,416
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,370
  • College graduation rate: 66.4%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,324
  • Homeownership rate: 66.2%

Maryland ranks low on the list because of its shrinking middle-class population. The proportion of households in the state earning the middle income dropped 6.8 percent between 2010 and 2015 — the second-highest drop in the country. 

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33. Utah

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,367
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,580
  • College graduation rate: 46.7%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,451
  • Homeownership rate: 70.7%

Utah has the sixth-lowest median household income of middle-class families as of 2014, as well as a relatively high drop in median income between 1999 and 2014. 

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32. Delaware

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,450
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $11,930
  • College graduation rate: 65.9%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,187
  • Homeownership rate: 68.7%

Between 1999 and 2014, Delaware's median household income of middle-class families dropped about 8.5 percent — the fifth-largest decrease in the U.S. Despite dropping incomes, Delaware manages to rank near the middle thanks to its high college graduation rate. 

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31. Washington

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,183
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,270
  • College graduation rate: 58.9%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,530
  • Homeownership rate: 64.2%

Unlike most states in the country, the cost of in-state tuition in Washington has actually dropped in the last five years. In fact, tuition has decreased the most in Washington than in any other state.

However, the median home list price ($349,000) in Washington is high, which prevents the state from ranking higher on the list. Perhaps middle-class households should consider renting in one of the cheapest cities

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30. Arizona

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,895
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.9%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,960
  • College graduation rate: 54%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,198
  • Homeownership rate: 62.6%

Arizona ranks in the bottom half of the list because of its low median household income of middle-class families. It also has a shrinking middle-class population.

On the positive side, it is a good place to own a home. The median home list price is only $268,990, and home values in Arizona are rising — they rose nearly 50 percent in the last five years.

Affordable Places to Live: Best and Worst States for Single Parents to Raise a Family 

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29. Texas

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,542
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,570
  • College graduation rate: 52.2%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,194
  • Homeownership rate: 61.5%

Texas falls toward the middle of the pack for many of the metrics GOBankingRates analyzed. For example, the state is in the bottom 20 for median household income of middle-class families. And, Texas has the ninth-lowest homeownership rate in the country at only 61.5 percent, putting the state on the bottom half of the list.

Still, there are cities in Texas where a middle-class family can live well, found a separate study. 

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28. New Mexico

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,680
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,620
  • College graduation rate: 40.1%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $990
  • Homeownership rate: 67%

New Mexico has the 10th-lowest median household income of middle-class families, but it's one of the best states for homebuyers.

The median home list price is only $219,900. However, home values are increasing at a slower pace in New Mexico than in most states. Between August 2012 and August 2017, the median home value change was only 9.8 percent — the fifth-lowest increase in the U.S. 

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27. Alabama

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,781
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,040
  • College graduation rate: 47.8%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $866
  • Homeownership rate: 69.9%

Alabama experienced one of the largest drops in median household incomes among the middle class. However, the middle-income proportion of households has not changed dramatically, putting the state toward the middle of the list. 

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26. Montana

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $70,813
  • Median household income change of middle class: -3.2%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,410
  • College graduation rate: 43.8%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,309
  • Homeownership rate: 67.3%

Montana is a good state to live in for affordable higher education: The state has one of the lowest in-state tuition and fees in the U.S. But what prevents the state from ranking higher on the list is its low median household income. Montana's 2014 median household income of middle-class families is the third-lowest in the country. 

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25. North Carolina

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,342
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,200
  • College graduation rate: 60.4%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,111
  • Homeownership rate: 67.5%

The median household income of middle-class families is low in North Carolina when compared to other states. But, it's a good state for families that value higher education. North Carolina has a relatively high college graduation rate and affordable in-state tuition. 

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24. Tennessee

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,744
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,520
  • College graduation rate: 50.4%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $866
  • Homeownership rate: 66.4%

The proportion of middle-income households did not change much between 2010 and 2015. And, the median home listing price in Tennessee is less than $200,000, while home values have been increasing at a healthy rate (24.4 percent) over the last five years. 

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23. Florida

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $70,124
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $6,360
  • College graduation rate: 48.5%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,240
  • Homeownership rate: 63.6%

Florida has the lowest median household income of middle-class families in the U.S., but the state ranks toward the middle for middle-class living thanks to its inexpensive college tuition. Florida has the second-lowest in-state tuition and fees in the country, as well as a relatively small increase in tuition over the last five years.

It's also a good state to be a homeowner, as median home values have increased 59 percent between 2012 and 2015 — the third-biggest increase in the country. In fact, Florida is home to some of the best cities to own investment property

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22. Vermont

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,540
  • Median household income change of middle class: 0.2%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $15,450
  • College graduation rate: 64.4%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,119
  • Homeownership rate: 70.7%

Vermont is one of only two states where the median household income of middle-class families has risen between 1999 and 2014. However, it's one of the costliest states for an in-state college education: Vermont has the second-highest in-state tuition and fees in the country. 

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21. Idaho

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $70,476
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,010
  • College graduation rate: 46%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,180
  • Homeownership rate: 68.9%

Idaho has the second-lowest median household income of middle-class families in the U.S. However, the state also has low in-state tuition and fees, as well as a relatively high homeownership rate. So, the state ranks just shy of the top 20 best states for the middle class. 

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20. Kansas

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,250
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,920
  • College graduation rate: 52.6%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $757
  • Homeownership rate: 67.4%

Middle-class families aspiring to buy a house might be able to do so in Kansas, which has the fifth-lowest median home list price ($164,500) in the nation. On the downside, the median home values have not increased much in the last five years at 13.2 percent, so it might not provide a good return on investment compared to home buying in other states

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19. South Carolina

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,752
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,190
  • College graduation rate: 56.6%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,106
  • Homeownership rate: 75.9%

South Carolina has the highest homeownership rate in the country, a positive sign for middle-class families who value owning a home. While housing is relatively affordable, higher education can be expensive. South Carolina ranks ninth for highest in-state tuition and fees in the country. 

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18. Ohio

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,458
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,270
  • College graduation rate: 53.8%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $718
  • Homeownership rate: 65.2%

Ohio's homeownership rate is only 65.2 percent, putting it right in the middle as compared to other states. On the plus side, the cost of in-state college tuition in Ohio has only risen 2 percent. Ohio is also second in the nation for affordable homes, with the second-lowest median home list price. 

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17. Kentucky

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,926
  • Median household income change of middle class: -7.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,950
  • College graduation rate: 47.4%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $796
  • Homeownership rate: 69.2%

The decrease in the proportion of middle-income households in Kentucky is one of the lowest in the country, a good sign for middle-class families who want to call Kentucky home (or already do). The state has one of the lowest median home list prices in the country — but it has a relatively low college graduation rate. 

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16. Wisconsin

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,577
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,930
  • College graduation rate: 58%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $863
  • Homeownership rate: 65.6%

The 2014 median household income of middle-class families in Wisconsin is among the highest in the country. And, middle-class families might be able to afford a house and college education. The state boasts a relatively affordable mortgage payment and college tuition.

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15. Maine

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,454
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,690
  • College graduation rate: 56.3%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,039
  • Homeownership rate: 70.3%

Maine is one of only three states where in-state tuition and fees have decreased over the last five years. Homes are slightly more affordable in Maine than elsewhere, with the median list price of a home in Maine at $229,900. The homeownership rate is also high in the state. 

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14. Pennsylvania

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,659
  • Median household income change of middle class: -4.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $13,880
  • College graduation rate: 65.9%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $864
  • Homeownership rate: 70.1%

Pennsylvania ranks high thanks to its college graduation rate, which is one of the best in the country. The state also has a low estimated mortgage rate and a high homeownership rate.

However, college tuition might not be affordable for some middle-class families, as its in-state tuition and fees are the third-highest in the U.S.  

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13. Michigan

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $73,248
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $12,460
  • College graduation rate: 51.2%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $793
  • Homeownership rate: 72.6%

Michigan's housing market makes it a good place for middle-class families to live. At $169,000, Michigan has one of the lowest median list prices. But what prevents Michigan from ranking higher is its in-state tuition, as well as its large decrease in median household incomes of middle-class families between 1999 and 2014. 

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12. Arkansas

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,245
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,250
  • College graduation rate: 42.6%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $754
  • Homeownership rate: 65.2%

Although Arkansas' median household income of middle-class families is among the lowest, the state still ranks highly because of its affordable housing.

The median home listing price in the state is the third-lowest in the country, with average monthly mortgage payments at only $754. The state also has low in-state tuition and fees. 

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11. Minnesota

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $76,310
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $10,950
  • College graduation rate: 61.7%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,097
  • Homeownership rate: 73.8%

Minnesota's median household income of middle-class families is the sixth-highest in the country. Despite having relatively high in-state tuition and fees, Minnesota also has a relatively high college graduation rate. It's also a good place to own a home, as home values have increased about 37 percent over the past five years. 

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10. Missouri

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,646
  • Median household income change of middle class: -8.3%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,630
  • College graduation rate: 55.7%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $794
  • Homeownership rate: 67.1%

Missouri's affordable homes and higher education makes it one of the 10 best states for the middle class.

Missouri has the sixth-lowest median home listing price in the country, tied with Michigan at $169,000. In addition to having affordable homes, the state also has low tuition and fees, and tuition has only increased 5.4 percent in-state in the last five years. 

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9. Indiana

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,352
  • Median household income change of middle class: -9.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $9,200
  • College graduation rate: 55.3%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $755
  • Homeownership rate: 72%

Indiana has some of the lowest home prices in the country, which helps make it the ninth best state for the middle class to live. It has one of the lowest monthly mortgage payments, and it also ranks highly for homeownership rates. Plus, college tuition hasn't increased much over the last five years.

However, there was a dramatic decrease in the median household income of middle-class families in Indiana. At over 9 percent, Indiana had the largest percentage drop in the U.S. 

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8. Wyoming

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,811
  • Median household income change of middle class: -0.6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $5,060
  • College graduation rate: 54%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $1,087
  • Homeownership rate: 69.1%

A middle-class income can go far in Wyoming. The median household income of middle-class families in Wyoming is one of the highest in the study, while the cost of sending a child to college is low. In fact, Wyoming has the least expensive in-state tuition and fees in the country. 

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7. Mississippi

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $71,391
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6.5%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,410
  • College graduation rate: 51.7%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $812
  • Homeownership rate: 68.9%

Although the middle-income proportion of households has risen just slightly in Mississippi, it's one of only four states where the middle class is growing and not shrinking.

Mississippi is also one of the best states for the middle class because of its affordability. The median home listing price of $173,000 is one of the lowest in the study. 

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6. Oklahoma

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $72,249
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.4%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,030
  • College graduation rate: 43.5%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $825
  • Homeownership rate: 71.6%

Like Mississippi, Oklahoma is one of only four states where the middle-income proportion of households has increased. Although the median household income of middle-class families in Oklahoma is relatively low, so are home prices and in-state tuition. 

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5. North Dakota

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,801
  • Median household income change of middle class: -0.9%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,880
  • College graduation rate: 48.7%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $817
  • Homeownership rate: 61.4%

North Dakota ranked highly on almost all metrics used for this analysis. The median household income of middle-class families in the state is among the highest. And among the states where median incomes fell, North Dakota had the second-smallest decline. It also had one of the smallest decreases in the proportion of middle-income households.

However, North Dakota is also home to the most unequal metro area in the country in terms of wealth distribution. 

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4. Nebraska

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $74,432
  • Median household income change of middle class: -5.1%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,880
  • College graduation rate: 58.3%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $903
  • Homeownership rate: 66.5%

Nebraska is one of the best states for the middle class because of its overall affordability for the factors that matter most to middle-class families: homeownership and college education. The median home list price is only $195,000. In-state tuition and fees are also significantly less than in many other states. 

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3. West Virginia

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $70,838
  • Median household income change of middle class: -6%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $7,490
  • College graduation rate: 43.6%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $718
  • Homeownership rate: 75.1%

West Virginia has the highest percent increase in the proportion of middle-income households, and is one of only four states where the proportion increased. The state also ranks highest for affordable housing, with the lowest median home cost in the country at $150,000.

Additionally, in-state college tuition is low, making it a state where a middle-class family can likely afford to own a home and pay for college.

Is College Worth It? The Average Student Loan Debt in Every State 

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2. South Dakota

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $77,176
  • Median household income change of middle class: 1.7%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,140
  • College graduation rate: 48.7%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $981
  • Homeownership rate: 64.6%

South Dakota is one of only two states where the median household income of middle-class families increased between 1999 and 2014, and of the states it had the higher increase. It's also one of four states where the proportion of middle-income households is increasing.

Middle-income earners also make more in South Dakota than in most states, with the median household in the state ranking fifth highest in the country. 

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1. Iowa

  • Median household income of middle-class families: $75,953
  • Median household income change of middle class: -3.8%
  • In-state tuition and fees: $8,270
  • College graduation rate: 66.3%
  • Monthly mortgage payment: $787
  • Homeownership rate: 69.9%

Iowa tops GOBankingRates' list of the best states for the middle class, ranking high for almost all the metrics analyzed.

Iowa has a high median household income of middle-class families, and a relatively low drop in median household income change between 1999 and 2014. On the higher education front, Iowa has a high college graduation rate and low in-state tuition and fees. It also has one of the lowest percentage increases in college tuition cost over the last five years.

The Midwest state boasts affordable housing, with a median home listing price of only $169,900. In addition, the state has a high homeownership rate. 

Photo credit: Getty

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Best and Worst States for the Middle Class 

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