All incomes are not created equal.
The value of a person's salary often depends on which state they're living in. For instance, a $40,000 income in Iowa—where the cost of living is lower—is worth more than a $40,000 income in Hawaii.
So the Commerce Department adjusted wealth by state, taking residents' income and cost of living, and adjusting for regional price estimates for goods and services. It's called the Real Personal Income metric.
This tool, the Commerce Department says, can help people who are looking to move compare incomes and cost of living across states, taking into account inflation and regional prices.
Overall, real personal income across the country rose on average 2.3 percent in 2012 from the previous year.
The tool also shows what moving across your state's border could mean for the value of your income. In 2012, South Dakota's real personal income declined 1.2 percent, making it the worst state by this metric. By comparison, North Dakota's real personal income increased 15.1 percent, making it the most-improved state—an effect of the booming oil industry there.
Looking at all 50 states and the District of Columbia, here are the largest and smallest gains for real personal income from 2011 to 2012.
North Dakota – 15.1 percent
Montana – 3.7 percent
Indiana – 3.7 percent
California – 3.4 percent
Mississippi – 3.4 percent
South Dakota – Negative 1.2 percent
Maine – 0.3 percent
District of Columbia – 0.4 percent
Alaska – 0.7 percent
Alabama – 0.8 percent
The economies of different states are growing. But as this list shows, the costs of living in those states could make them less affordable than others.