The unbalanced spread of prosperity in the United States is no secret; income inequality has dominated the political conversation this year from the streets of Oakland to Capitol Hill. And just as income distributes in unfathomably unequal fashion between individuals, it also distributes unevenly between states, cities, and neighborhoods.

Nick Taylor/Flickr source

So even though Manhattan may house more of the one percent than most cities, it does not necessarily follow that New York State is the most prosperous, nor does it follow that New York City is incredibly prosperous. A new report from IHS Global Insight Inc, first reported by Bloomberg, demonstrates that the biggest winners of our lagging post-recessionary recovery are not where you might have expected.

North Dakota, of all states, has the best-performing economy in the United States, according to Bloomberg. This shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone who has been following the exploration of the Bakken formation, an oil field that has created boomtowns out of podunk North Dakota outposts. Cities like Williston, North Dakota are now flush with cash, and even have housing shortages, according to CNN.

Other states with promising economic outlooks are Alaska, Texas, and Oklahoma. In other words, the only states with booming economies are those that are extracting oil from themselves.

The states with the worst economies, according to Bloomberg, are those whose economic expansion was dependent on the housing boom of the past decade: Georgia, Nevada, Florida, California.

There’s a nugget of historical irony in there, of course, as Oklahoma’s economy is expanding faster than California’s. Perhaps Californians will move en masse from Fresno to Oklahoma City, and be dubbed Californies.

Probably not, though. Bloomberg points out that because of the nature of the crisis in these housing-depressed states, many people are stuck in underwater mortgages. They cannot move, and this lack of mobility is making our recovery slower that it would be otherwise. IHS estimates that these hard hit states won’t return to pre-recession levels of economic activity until 2016.

So the takeaway is this: if you don’t own a home, and you live in a depressed state, you better hustle off to the oil fields. You can come back home in 2016. It will certainly be a memorable four years. Think of it like college, but greasier.

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  • Toothcol

    This is why we should extract oil in this country, hopefully the new president would be smart and let this happen, so we can see our prosperous economy back

    • Well I don’t know about that. There are likely more sustainable industries than oil extraction. What will the US do once we’ve extracted all the oil?

      • Anonymous

        Estimates of the US’s untapped oil supply are extremely high.  Not everlasting, but certainly enough to get us through this recession, and probably the next several.

      • Lindseyarmstrong

        where are more sustainable industries? seriously?  If the government didn’t tax tertiary extractions so highly, we’d have even more to sustain the US. Oil is already taxed 50% and we are still the most sustainable industry and keep in mind… we don’t require the government’s assistance.

  • Anonymous

    What about the extreme cold temperatures and blizzards and all the problems from this? High heating bills, cars don’t last as long, one year in those conditions is like ten years in a warmer climate for cars. Sliding off the road into the ditch or worse during winter. Who wants to put up with all that?

    • ND

      I’ll take cold temperatures and blizzards over crowded cities and stop and go traffic any day of the week.

    • Rmabry

      I lived there during my tenure in the United States Air Force. My car (an Isuzu I Mark) was not adversely affected. I never slid off the road into a ditch (credit sensible driving for the conditions). And although the temperatures are extreme, I never experienced “cabin fever;” I always found something to do. 

      • Dr. P

        Hmmm…I was stationed at Grand Forks. My Karmen Ghia looked as if it had been attacked w/ baseballs. Tiny dents all over from snow plows, sliding cars, etc. Riding a Chinook every day to the silo was no fun either. I would have to say that with the extreme cold, the difficulty in getting from point A to point B combined with women who all weigh 200 pounds and can out drink any man…makes for an area to which I would prefer to never return.

  • Whirlaway

    Hey, you don’t have to live there forever.  Bank it for a few years and then leave for a warmer oil state.