America’s Poorest States

Print Email

America’s Poorest States

10. Oklahoma 
> Median household income: $43,225
> Population: 3,791,508 (23rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.2% (8th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.2% (16th highest)

Oklahoma remarkably low unemployment rate of 6.2% for a state that is among the nation’s poorest. The poverty rate of 17.2% has inched up each year from the 2008 rate of 15.9%. The low median income suggests a need for higher paying jobs as Oklahoma relies heavily on agricultural production. Also, government and military, which tend to be low-paying jobs, account for the highest percentage of jobs in the state. But Oklahoma is also a major producer of oil and gas. Growth in the energy sector, which tends to pay more, would help improve on Oklahoma’s median income of $43,225.

9. South Carolina 
> Median household income: $42,367
> Population: 4,679,230 (24th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.3% (8th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 18.9% (9th highest)

South Carolina has been hit harder than many states by the recent economic downturn. The state’s sizable tourism industry has slowed as families cut back on vacations. The state’s 10.3% unemployment rate in 2011 was well above the 8.9% national rateSouth Carolina’s poverty rate of 18.9% was the ninth highest in the U.S. and significantly higher than the national rate of 15.9%.Moreover, approximately6.5% of families made less than $10,000 a year, the fifth highest proportion in the country. Meanwhile, only 2.9% of families made more than $200,000 a year, the sixth-lowest rate in the country.

Also Read: The World’s Best (and Worst) Economies

8. New Mexico 
> Median household income: $41,963
> Population: 2,082,224 (15th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.4% (18th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 21.5% (2nd highest)

Last year, 7.2% of families in New Mexico earned less than $10,000, a larger proportion than in any state but Mississippi and Louisiana. In addition, 21.5% of residents lived below the poverty line, well above the national rate of 15.9%. As a result of poverty and limited job benefits, many New Mexicans cannot afford health insurance. Last year, 19.8% of the state’s residents were uninsured. This was significantly higher than the national rate of 15.1% even though the cost of healthcare in New Mexico was slightly below the national average.

7. Louisiana 
> Median household income: $41,734
> Population: 4,574,836 (25th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (16th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 20.4% (3rd highest)

Louisiana is located at the center of the poorest region in the country — the Deep South along the gulf coast. When Hurricane Katrina struck the region in 2005, the southern part of the state was decimated, particularly the city of New Orleans. Six years later, the city was still recovering with almost 17% of families earning less than $10,000 per year, more than triple the national rate of 5.1%. By many measures, conditions are actually getting worse in the state. As of 2011, for the first time since Katrina, more than one in five residents lived below the poverty line, only slightly better than Mississippi and New Mexico. Louisiana’s median income fell by more than the country as a whole, falling more than $2,000 between 2010 and 2011.

6. Tennessee 
> Median household income: $41,693
> Population:  6,403,353 (17th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.2% (16th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 18.3% (12th highest)

In Tennessee some 6.1% of families, or about a third of families in poverty, made less than $10,000 in 2012, a percentage point higher than the national figure. Poverty in many of Tennessee’s largest cities is even worse than the state as a whole. In Memphis, the state’s largest city, 27.2% of the population lived below the poverty line, including 13.1% of households earning less than $10,000 a year. In Chattanooga, 28.7% of the population lived below the poverty line, including 16.3% of households earning less than $10,000 annually. While the state’s median income was lower than most, Tennessee had the second-lowest overall cost of living in and the lowest cost of living for housing among all states in 2011.