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Are All ND Millennials Benefiting from State's High Incomes?

While workers in the oil fields are earning high wages, other occupations in North Dakota may not be keeping up. (Lindsey G/Flickr)
While workers in the oil fields are earning high wages, other occupations in North Dakota may not be keeping up. (Lindsey G/Flickr)
July 23, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. – A new report finds millennials can earn the most money if they move to North Dakota.

But does that apply for every occupation?

The Hamilton Project found that, adjusting for cost of living and income taxes, median earnings for people aged 25 to 34 in the Bismarck metropolitan area were highest in the nation, at more than $33,000 a year.

The rest of the state isn't far behind.

Nationally, the average is just below $26,000. But while workers in the oil field fare well, Jay Shambaugh, director of The Hamilton Project, notes wages haven't necessarily kept pace in other fields.

For instance, teacher pay is much closer to the national average.

"Teachers would be one that makes sense,” he says. “They sign longer-term contracts, they're public workers.

“You could see how oil drilling, if they really need someone and they can make money hiring them, they're going to keep offering higher and higher wages if they need to get the person there.

“In some of these other fields where you set the wages over longer horizons, they may not have adjusted as quickly."

For its analysis, The Hamilton Project used U.S. Census data and created an interactive map from the results.

When cost of living and income taxes aren't taken into account, San Jose, Calif.-area millennials fare best, with a median income of more than $50,000.

Shambaugh says the nation needs to watch the discrepancies in pay across occupations.

"The variation is across region, but it's also within region across the industries,” he points out. “North Dakota is a great example with the oil and drilling, but it does mean that different people are struggling in different places even when the place is doing well sometimes, and that's something people have to keep an eye on."

Shambaugh adds that this report simply catalogs the data and notes that people don't necessarily pick the place they're going to live only based on income.

In other words, there are other reasons people might be attracted to living in North Dakota.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND