A good corn crop helped give six Plains states the best income growth in the nation last year. Utah was seventh, with per capita income rising 5.4 percent.

By contrast, income growth in Hawaii and Alaska failed to even keep up with inflation, the Commerce Department said Monday.For the nation as a whole, per capita income grew 4.5 percent. That was down from 5.2 percent in 1995, but it nevertheless was more than double the 2.2 percent inflation rate as measured by the department's personal consumption expenditures index.

"It was a good year on the farm. Because of the drought a year ago, prices for corn and wheat soared," said economist Mark Zandi or Regional Financial Associates in West Chester, Pa.

As usual, the state with the highest per capita income was Connecticut, at $33,189, and the state with the lowest was Mississippi, at $17,471. That national average was $24,231. Residents of the District of Columbia, not counted as a state, actually were slightly ahead of Connecticut, at $34,932.

But the best income growth occurred mainly in the Plains: North Dakota, 11.2 percent; South Dakota, 10 percent; Iowa, 7.9 percent; Nebraska, 7.4 percent; Minnesota, 6.8 percent; and Kansas, 6.5 percent.

The four other states rounding out the top 10 were Utah, 5.4 percent; Oregon, 5.2 percent; and Delaware and Illinois, both 5.1 percent.

Zandi said Utah and Oregon have been helped by migration of high-income Californians.

Hawaii had the slowest growth, 1.7 percent, followed by Alaska, 2.1 percent. Rounding out the bottom 10 were Wyoming, 2.5 percent; Tennessee, Montana and Maryland, 3.3 percent; Maine and New Mexico, 3.4 percent; and Idaho and Michigan, 3.6 percent.