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Mapping IRS Tax Return Filings Reveals Marked Differences in the Distribution of Income and Dependents

“Most Americans filed their taxes recently, not only providing the federal government with funds needed to operate but also providing the IRS (and ultimately the public) with important data about the reported amounts and sources of income, their number of dependents, and other factors that shape the distribution of financial means across the country. In this report, TRAC analyzed the data through filing year 2021 and visualized these data through a series of maps that show geographic patterns at the county level related to (1) average adjusted gross income (AGI) by county, (2) the top 50 and bottom 50 counties by average AGI, (3) the relationship between wages and dividends, and (4) the number of claimed dependents. For the U.S. as a whole, the average adjusted gross income (AGI) reported on federal income tax returns filed in 2021 increased to $76,539, up only slightly from $75,758 during the previous year. Reported income, however, varied markedly across states and counties, as shown in the map of AGI in TRAC’s full report. Aside from D.C., Massachusetts was the state with the highest average reported income at $101,863, followed by Connecticut at $101,589 and Washington State at $95,584. The lowest AGI with only half that of the top three states was Mississippi at $50,876. West Virginia had the second lowest income at $53,461 while New Mexico returns reported on average an AGI of $56,383 which was the next lowest. TRAC’s report maps both ends of the income spectrum, including the top 50 counties and bottom 50 counties by AGI the top 50 and bottom 50 counties by average AGI. The average number of dependents reported on federal income tax returns fell to 1.83. This figure has been slowly falling over the last decade, down from 2.01 average dependents reported on returns filed in 2011. But there is considerable variation in these numbers across counties. Reported averages varied from a high of 2.5 in Loving County, Texas and 2.44 in Morgan County, Utah to a low of 1.43 in Forest County, Pennsylvania and 1.48 in Manhattan, New York. Not surprisingly, urban counties in the Northeast and along the coasts tend to report fewer dependents, although many rural counties across the country also report an average of fewer than 2.0 dependents.”

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