1. Shelby, Alabama
> County median household income: $70,187
> State median household income: $43,623
> Poverty rate: 8.3%
> Nov. unemployment: 4.1%
One of the poorest states in the country, median annual household income in Alabama is about $10,000 lower than the nationwide median. Not all parts of Alabama are poor however. In Shelby, the typical household earns over $70,000 a year. With higher incomes, Shelby also has a far lower than typical poverty rate. Some 8.3% of county residents live in poverty, less than half the 18.8% statewide poverty rate, and well below the national 15.5% rate.
2. Juneau City and Borough, Alaska
> County median household income: $85,746
> State median household income: $72,515
> Poverty rate: 6.6%
> Nov. unemployment: 4.6%
Rather than being divided into counties, Alaska is divided into boroughs. The most affluent of these, Juneau City and Borough, has a median annual household income of more than $85,000 — nearly $33,000 more than the national median. While affluent counties tend to share certain characteristics, Juneau is an outlier in several respects. While most counties on this list have better than average job markets, Juneau’s unemployment rate of 4.6% is equal to the U.S. rate. With a population density of just 12 people per square mile, Juneau is also one of the few wealthy regions on this list with a population density below the U.S. figure of 87.4 people per square mile.
3. Maricopa, Arizona
> County median household income: $54,229
> State median household income: $50,255
> Poverty rate: 17.0%
> Nov. unemployment: 4.1%
Incomes are not especially high in Arizona. The state’s median household income of $50,255 a year is about $3,500 shy of the nationwide median of $53,889. Even in Arizona’s wealthiest county, Maricopa, the typical household earns $54,229, only a few hundred dollars more than the typical American household. Maricopa’s slightly higher incomes are not enough to eradicate poverty. Across the county, which encompases the city of Phoenix, 17% of residents live in poverty, a slightly higher share than the nationwide 15.5% poverty rate.
4. Benton, Arkansas
> County median household income: $56,239
> State median household income: $41,371
> Poverty rate: 12.2%
> Nov. unemployment: 2.6%
Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the country. Nearly one in every four state residents live below the poverty line, and the statewide median household income of $41,371 a year is about $12,500 below the national median. Statewide, median household income is higher than the national median in only two counties, including Benton, the state’s wealthiest. Still, the median household income in Benton is only $2,350 higher than the national median income.
Slightly higher incomes in Benton is due in part to a relatively healthy job market. Only 2.6% of the county’s labor force is out of a job, lower than both the 4.6% national unemployment rate and the 3.5% Arkansas unemployment rate.
5. Santa Clara, California
> County median household income: $96,310
> State median household income: $61,818
> Poverty rate: 9.5%
> Nov. unemployment: 3.5%
California is the most populous state and one of the wealthiest in the United States. Not surprisingly, California’s wealthiest county also ranks among the wealthiest counties nationwide. The typical Santa Clara household earns $96,310 a year, about $42,000 more than the typical American household and $34,000 more than the typical California household.
Santa Clara encompasses Silicon Valley, home to some the country’s most influential, and highest paying, tech companies. Most high-paying jobs require at least a college education, and about 48% of Santa Clara adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, significantly higher than the 30% of American adults and the 31% of California adults.