Red vs. Blue States: Which Have Higher Nurse Practitioner Salaries?

The 2016 presidential election is starting to heat up. It seems that each time I flip on the TV, another candidate has announced their intent to run. Images of aspiring presidents visiting fast food restaurants in middle America and rallying crowds fill the news. The growing momentum of next year’s election caused me to wonder-do red states or blue states have higher nurse practitioner salaries?

I decided to look into this question in greater detail. Using the mean annual wage of nurse practitioners by state as listed by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), I calculated the average nurse practitioner salary for red states, blue states and swing states.

States were grouped into the three political categories in the following manner:

  1. Red States-States carried by the Republican candidate in at least three of the last four presidential elections.
  2. Blue States-States carried by the Democrat candidate in at least three of the last four presidential elections.
  3. Swing States-States carried by each party twice in the last four presidential elections.

Differences in average nurse practitioner salaries are apparent when looking at states’ political leanings. Traditionally red states have an average nurse practitioner salary of $93,459 while blue states boast an average NP salary of $99,624. Swing states fall somewhere in the middle with an average nurse practitioner salary of $95,704.

What are the reasons behind this salary disparity? Blue states are largely grouped on either coast, areas with higher costs of living. NP salaries in locations with a high cost of living are far higher than in less expensive areas to reside. Politics themselves also affect average pay. Economists have debated the reasoning behind wage differences and their relation to politics, the consensus being that while blue states are technically richer, red states often have a higher standard of living.

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For nurse practitioners, scope of practice laws also come into play. States allowing NPs to practice to their full scope of practice have higher average salaries than those with restrictive regulations. Scope of practice laws are directly tied to state politics.

What does this mean for nurse practitioners? Consider your economic situation as you watch upcoming presidiential debates. Cost of living along with salary create your standard of living. Which candidate will give you the greatest benefit?

 

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