© 2024 90.7 WMFE. All Rights Reserved.
Public Media News for Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

PolitiFact FL: Is income growth in Florida No. 1 in the U.S., as DeSantis said?

Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign event.
Charlie Neibergall
/
AP
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign event, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, in Waukee, Iowa.

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis often touts his state’s economic growth on his watch as a test case of what he could do for the country as president.

"Our economy is ranked number one of all 50 states by CNBC," DeSantis said during a Jan. 4 CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa. "We lead the nation in net in-migration. Income growth is top of the charts. No. 1 in education. So, we've shown how it's done. And we need to bring that same level of success to the United States of America."

We’ve previously looked at the claims about CNBC’s ranking (it’s accurate), Florida’s domestic in-migration (it’s accurate but based on small numbers) and the state’s educational ranking (it’s accurate, at least in one ranking by U.S. News & World Report).

So, what’s left to review is whether Florida’s "income growth is top of the chart."

The DeSantis campaign didn’t give PolitiFact a specific measurement he was referring to, but we examined three statistics that can broadly be defined as "income." Each has pluses and minuses for analyzing DeSantis’ statement. For all three measurements, we tried to make the comparisons fair by seeing how Florida compared with its relative peers — the nine other most populous states.

We also compared the most recent data with 2019 levels. That was DeSantis’ first year as governor and the last full year before the coronavirus pandemic.

We found that how well Florida performs depends on what metric is used. By one of the three methods, the Sunshine State is No. 1; it’s in the middle or near the top using two other formulas. When isolating Florida’s 2021 pandemic-era performance using all three measures, however, we found the state lagged many of its peers.

Real per capita personal income

This measurement is released annually. It shows how much personal income was generated in each state, divided by the state’s population. It is adjusted for inflation.

For real per capita personal income, Florida is in the middle of the pack among the 10 most populous states.

Florida’s real per capita personal income was about 5.1% higher in 2022 than it was in 2019. (2023 data is not yet available.)

That trails the best of the 10 most populous states, Michigan, which expanded by 6.8% over the same period. Florida also trails Ohio, Texas, and California — a state DeSantis has regularly sparred with over economic performance. Florida’s performance exceeded that of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and Georgia, which finished last.

Real median household income

This measurement is also released annually and is adjusted for inflation. It shows the midpoint in income on the rank-ordered list of all households within the state.

Florida does better on this metric, though it’s not first.

Georgia finished first in real median household income, despite placing last in real personal income per capita. The Peach State is the only one of the top 10 most populous states in which real median household income increased from 2019 to 2022.

Florida finished second, though its real median household income dropped by about 2% during that period. The other eight states lost even more ground.

Average hourly earnings for all private-sector workers

The third and final statistic we scrutinized — average hourly earnings for all private-sector workers — is the narrowest. It counts only wage and salary earnings, whereas the first two statistics include other types of earnings, including those from interest and dividends, business profits, self-employment income, employer provided benefits such as health care and retirement support, and payments from the government such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

These differences make it the least well-suited of the three statistics to stand in for "income" — the word DeSantis used.

However, this statistic is the one that provides Florida’s strongest ranking.

Since January 2019, average hourly earnings for private-sector workers has increased by about 25% in Florida, or more than any of the other states in the most populous 10. It edged out North Carolina, which was just shy of 24%.

New York and Georgia were the lowest-ranking states among the 10 most populous, with about a 15% increase over the same period.

How did Florida do after Florida’s economic reopening during the pandemic?

DeSantis’ campaign frequently posits that he had the foresight to open the state to economic activity during the pandemic much sooner than many other states, something he argues enabled a spurt of economic growth.

So, how did Florida do on these three metrics through 2021, the first full year after DeSantis moved to reopen Florida’s economy?

On the two income measures, Florida was in the middle of the pack by the end of 2021. And for average hourly earnings — the statistic for which Florida ranked No. 1 through the end of 2022 — the Sunshine State’s performance was less impressive.

In 10 of 2021’s 12 calendar months, when the benefits of the reopened economy should have reflected most keenly, wage increases in Florida were smaller than those in DeSantis’ big rival state, California.

Our ruling

DeSantis said that in Florida, "income growth is top of the chart."

There are different ways to measure this, and using some of the relevant statistics, Florida performs well compared with its peers.

However, the one statistic that puts Florida first among the 10 most populous states is wages. That’s a narrower category than "income," the word DeSantis used.

We rate the statement Half True.

RELATED: The Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom economies, in 8 charts

Our Sources

  • Ron DeSantis, remarks at a CNN town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 4, 2023
  • Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, real per capita personal income data for Florida, California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, accessed Jan. 5, 2023
  • Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, real median household income data for Florida, California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, accessed Jan. 5, 2023
  • Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, average hourly earnings for all private-sector workers in Florida, California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, accessed Jan. 5, 2023
  • Email interview with Gary Burtless, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, Jan. 5, 2024
  • Interview with Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, Jan. 5, 2024
Louis Jacobson has been with PolitiFact since 2009, currently as senior correspondent.