The Top U.S. Exports by State
The U.S. exported over $1.3 trillion in goods in 2020, the second-highest amount worldwide.
While refined petroleum was the top export overall at $58.4 billion, Visual Capitalist's Dorothy Neufeld details below that aircraft exports were actually the highest across 14 states - more than any other form of export.
This infographic from OnDeck shows America’s top exports by state, using January 2022 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
America’s Top Exports, by Category
As shown below, Florida, Kansas, and numerous other states all have aircraft (and related parts) as their top export.
Here is the top export category for each state, using 2020 figures.
While the vast majority of the aerospace and defense industry consists of civil aerospace exports, America has also played a significant role in exports of military aircraft. Between 2000-2020, these were worth $99.6 billion, the highest in the world ahead of Russia’s $61.5 billion in military exports. This becomes less surprising when you consider that a new fighter jet can often come with a $100 million price tag.
But there were many different, and more interesting, exports. South Dakota’s top export is none other than brewing dregs, which is the sediment found in brewing beer. The largest importers of these dregs are Mexico, Vietnam, and South Korea. Often, dregs are sold to farmers for use in animal feed.
Meanwhile, the top export for Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois is medicine, while North Carolina has vaccines and antibodies as a top export. In 2020, the U.S. exported over $46 billion in goods critical to combating COVID-19, the second-highest after China ($105 billion).
As the largest exporter of oil in America, Texas produces over 5 million barrels of oil each day, or 1.7 billion annually. Mississippi’s top export was also petroleum, while light oil was the top export in Minnesota and North Dakota. Overall, oil makes up roughly 10% of U.S. exports annually.
The Most Unique Exports, by State
While oil, medicine, and aircraft are the usual suspects for America’s top exports, here are the most idiosyncratic exports for each state. These are defined as those which are exported by the smallest number of other states.
Arkansas is the top exporter of rice in America, with the industry valued at $722 million. The rice industry in Arkansas began to grow substantially in the early 1900s, and expanded even more rapidly during World War I & II.
New York, on the other hand, exports more sculptures than any other state thanks to being the epicenter of the art world. The U.S. exported over $12 billion in art and antiques in 2019.
Lobster is the most unique export in Maine, known for its characteristically large claws. The north coast of Maine offers cool waters which lend themselves to more tender and sweeter lobster fare.
Finally, Massachusetts exports quahog pearls, known for their uneven texture and mosaic pattern, found across Cape Cod.
The Top U.S. Imports by State
But as Visual Capitalist's Carmen Ang asks (and answers below), what types of goods are most commonly imported throughout different parts of America? This graphic by OnDeck shows the top import in every U.S. state, using January 2022 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Most Popular Categories of U.S. Imports
Petroleum is the most popular import in 12 states, making it the most common import across America. In 2021, about 72% of imported petroleum was crude oil, which was then domestically refined into products like gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.
A majority of that imported petroleum came from Canada, while roughly 11% was imported from OPEC countries, and 8% came from Russia. Of course, the latter figure will likely dip in 2022 because of the ban on Russian imports implemented by the Biden administration in response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
After petroleum, vehicles and medicine were tied for the second most-imported goods, with both categories being the most popular import in six states each.
Somewhat related to medicine are nucleic acids, which were the top imports in Florida and Nebraska. Nucleic acids are natural polymers that are used in biological processes like protein synthesis or messenger RNA (mRNA) translation. It’s worth noting that several COVID-19 vaccines, including those produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are mRNA vaccines.
The Most Unique U.S. Imports
In addition to outlining the most popular imports in each U.S. state, OnDeck highlights each state’s most unique import, visualized in the graphic below.
OnDeck defines each state’s “most unique” import as the category of goods that was imported by the fewest other states.
Salmon was Florida’s most unique import. This makes sense considering the Sunshine State is home to some of the country’s biggest seafood wholesalers, including North Star Seafood (owned by Sysco) and Tampa Bay Fisheries.
Another example is Delaware’s high imports of pineapples, totaling around $60.2 million in pineapples per year. This time, the culprit is Dole plc (formerly the Dole Food Company), the largest producer of fruit and vegetables in the world. Until 2021, the company’s headquarters were based in Delaware, and it still receives pineapple imports to the Port of Wilmington in the state’s largest city.