America’s Richest (and Poorest) States

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5. Kentucky
> Median household income: $43,399
> Population: 4,395,295 (25th largest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.3% (7th lowest)
> Pct. Below poverty line: 18.8% (6th highest)

The typical Kentucky household earned just $43,399 last year, roughly $10,000 below the national median. Additionally, 18.8% of Kentucky residents lived in poverty last year, a rate that has remained unchanged since 2009. Like many of the poorest states, home values in the state were quite low. The median value of a home in Kentucky was $120,900 as of 2013, the sixth lowest value in the country. Kentucky’s unemployment rate was 8.3% in 2013, well above the national rate of 7.4%. This was also unchanged from 2012, making Kentucky one of a small minority of states where the unemployment rate did not improve.

4. Alabama
> Median household income: $42,849
> Population: 4,833,722 (23rd largest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (18th lowest)
> Pct. Below poverty line: 18.7% (7th highest)

Alabama was one of just a few states where more than 10% of the population reported a household income of less than $10,000 last year. Additionally, the state’s median income — already low — dropped significantly between 2009 and 2013, from $44,000 to $42,840. However, relative to residents in other poor states, Alabama had a relatively low percentage of residents without health coverage at just 13.6%. By comparison, 14.5% of Americans nationwide lacked health insurance last year. However, Alabama is one of the 24 states that elected not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act due largely to concerns about costs being shifted from the federal government to the states in the long-run.

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3. West Virginia
> Median household income: $41,253
> Population: 1,854,304 (38th largest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (18th lowest)
> Pct. Below poverty line: 18.5% (10th highest)

Unlike some states with low median incomes, relatively few West Virginia residents worked in manufacturing. Instead, these residents mostly found employment in agriculture or mining, as nearly 5.4% of workers were employed in those industries as of 2013, well above the national average. While the state’s unemployment rate decreased 0.7 percentage points between 2012 and 2013 to 6.5% — notably better than the U.S. rate last year — median household income remained low and unchanged. Low incomes also likely affect the housing market of the state. The median home value was only $103,200 in 2013, lower than all but one other state

2. Arkansas
> Median household income: $40,511
> Population: 2,959,373 (19th smallest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% (18th highest)
> Pct. Below poverty line: 19.7% (4th highest)

The typical Arkansas household earned $40,511 last year, well below the national median of $52,250. Like in many of the poorest states, the state’s poverty was also a major problem. Arkansas had the fourth highest poverty rate in the country last year, at 19.7%. The state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged between 2012 and 2013, a major indication of a weak job market. Low incomes and a weak job market may contribute to low real estate values as well. Statewide, homes were valued relatively low, at just under $110,000, or more than $60,000 below the national benchmark. Additionally, nearly one in five homes were valued at less than $50,000, the third highest rate in the country.

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1. Mississippi
> Median household income: $37,963
> Population: 2,991,207 (20th smallest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.6% (6th highest)
> Pct. Below poverty line: 24.0% (the highest)

Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation, had a median household income of just $37,963 last year. In fact, no other state had a median income of less than $40,000 in 2013, and Mississippi’s median income was barely half that of top-ranked states Maryland and Alaska. Further, no state had a higher poverty rate than Mississippi, where more than 24% of people lived below the poverty line. The next-closest state, New Mexico, had a poverty rate more than two percentage points lower than Mississippi. Other problems the state faced were a high jobless rate and a high proportion of households on food stamps. Last year, 8.6% of workers were unemployed, the sixth highest rate nationally, while 19.4% of households relied on food stamps, the second highest rate.

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