1. Sumter, Alabama
> County median household income: $19,501
> State median household income: $43,623
> Poverty rate: 42.7%
> Nov. unemployment: 7.3%
The typical household in Sumter earns less than $20,000 annually — the lowest of any county in Alabama and nearly the lowest of the over 2,000 U.S. counties reviewed. For reference, the federal poverty threshold for a household of three is just over $20,000. In Sumter, 42.7% of people live in poverty compared to 18.8% of residents statewide and 15.5% of Americans nationwide.
2. Bethel Census Area, Alaska
> County median household income: $51,012
> State median household income: $72,515
> Poverty rate: 25.2%
> Nov. unemployment: 12.1%
Alaska has the second highest median household income of all states. Even in the state’s poorest region, the Bethel Census Area, the typical household income is $51,012, which is only slightly below the national median income. The area comprises much of the territory of the state occupied by the Yupik people. More than 80% of the census area’s population consists of Native Americans, a demographic that has historically suffered from poverty.
3. Apache, Arizona
> County median household income: $31,757
> State median household income: $50,255
> Poverty rate: 36.6%
> Nov. unemployment: 10.2%
Native Americans are some of the nation’s most economically disadvantaged people, and Apache — the poorest county in Arizona and one of the poorest in the country — is a case in point. Native Americans comprise over 70% of the county’s population. The Navajo Nation, the nation’s largest Native American tribe, spans over half of Apache County’s land area.
At 36.6%, Apache’s poverty rate is more than double the state poverty rate of 18.2%, itself eighth highest compared with other states.
4. Phillips, Arkansas
> County median household income: $26,844
> State median household income: $41,371
> Poverty rate: 34.1%
> Nov. unemployment: 5.1%
The typical household in Phillips, Arkansas earns just $26,844 a year, almost $30,000 less than in Benton, the state’s wealthiest county. Educational attainment is one of the strongest determinants of regional income, and Phillips’ residents are much less likely to have the education levels needed to earn a higher than average income. Nearly one in four Phillips County adults lacks a high school diploma, and barely one in 10 have a bachelor’s degree, each among the worst attainment rates of any county in the country.
5. Trinity, California
> County median household income: $34,974
> State median household income: $61,818
> Poverty rate: 19.5%
> Nov. unemployment: 6.4%
Trinity, a rural county in Northern California, is the poorest in the state. The typical area household earns only about $35,000 a year, well below the median income statewide of $61,818 a year. A relatively weak job market likely contributes to financial hardship in the county. Trinity’s 6.4% unemployment rate is higher than the statewide unemployment rate of 5.0%. Nearly one in five county residents live in poverty, larger than the state’s 16.3% poverty rate.