America’s Richest (and Poorest) States

Print Email

Jackson Mississippi Skyline

50. Mississippi
> Median household income: $40,593
> Population: 2,992,333 (19th lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 6.5% (4th highest)
> Poverty rate: 22.0% (the highest)

With 2015 median household income unchanged from 2014, Mississippi is once again the poorest state in the country.The typical Mississippi household earned $40,593 last year, well below the national median income of $55,775. Mississippi also has the highest poverty rate in the country, with 22.0% of residents living below the poverty line. A relatively large share of state households are very poor. Some 11.5% earn $10,000 or less annually, the highest extreme poverty rate of any state. Similarly, there are relatively few affluent households in the state. Only 2.1% of Mississippi households earn $200,000 or more a year, the lowest such share.

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

49. Arkansas
> Median household income: $41,995
> Population: 2,978,204 (18th lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 5.2% (24th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.1% (4th highest)

Goods and services in Arkansas cost less on average than almost anywhere else in the country. While the relative affordability certainly helps low income households, state residents are still quite poor. The typical household earns $41,995 a year, second lowest after Mississippi. Also, 19.1% of people live in poverty, the fourth highest poverty rate of any state. Homes tend to have relatively low values to match the low incomes. At just $120,700, the typical home in Arkansas is valued at more than $70,000 below the national benchmark of $194,500.

City of Morgantown in West Virginia

48. West Virginia
> Median household income: $42,019
> Population: 1,844,128 (13th lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 6.7% (the highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.9% (7th highest)

The typical West Virginia household earns $42,019, compared to the national median income of $55,775. Individuals struggling to find work who live on little to no income contribute to low household incomes in West Virginia. Of workers in the state, 6.7% were unemployed in 2015, the highest annual unemployment rate of any state.

West Virginia’s population is one of the largest recipients of government assistance programs such as SNAP, which each year help millions of people cope with poverty. Of households in the state, 16.0% use food stamps, the ninth highest share.

View of downtown Mobile, Alabama

47. Alabama
> Median household income: $44,765
> Population: 4,858,979 (24th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 6.1% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (5th highest)

Alabama is one of the poorest states in the nation with a median household income of $44,765 a year. However, this figure is notably higher than in 2014, when the median income, adjusted for inflation, was $42,895.

Like in many of the poorest states, Alabama’s poverty rate of 18.5% is among the highest of all states. Other problems the state faces are a high jobless rate and a high proportion of households relying on food stamps. Last year, 6.1% of workers were unemployed, the eighth highest jobless rate of any state. With low incomes, home values are also low in Alabama. The median home is worth $134,100, or more than $60,000 below the national benchmark of $194,500.

Louisville at dusk, Kentucky

46. Kentucky
> Median household income: $45,215
> Population: 4,425,092 (25th lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 5.4% (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (5th highest)

Like most states, Kentucky’s median household income of $45,215 a year has increased since 2014, when the median income, adjusted for inflation, was $43,014 a year. Residents are still quite poor, however. Kentucky’s poverty rate of 18.5% is the fifth highest poverty rate of all states. While no guarantee, a college degree substantially improves the odds of finding a job with a good wage. In Kentucky, just 23.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, considerably lower than the national college attainment rate of 30.6%.