America’s Richest (and Poorest) States

September 19, 2013 by Mike Sauter

Last year, household income remained effectively unchanged, according to data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is despite the fact that the U.S. added nearly 2.2 million jobs in 2012.

“The big story is that everything was stagnant over the year” said Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould. “We’re stagnant, and continue to be in a bad place.”

While the economy continues to struggle, residents in the wealthiest states continue to make far more than in the poorest. In 2012, Maryland remained the richest state in the country, with a median household income of $71,221. Mississippi was again the poorest, with an income of $37,095 — nearly half that of Maryland’s.

Click here to see the 10 richest states

Click here to see the 10 poorest states

Despite the addition of jobs nationwide, median incomes remained stagnant in most states and were still generally below their 2008 levels, adjusted for inflation. Sheldon Danziger, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, explained that this has been the nature of the recovery. “We have an economy that continues to grow, with most of the gains going to the economic elite. I don’t see any bright prospects for the median worker, much less the poor.”

States with lower median incomes generally had much higher rates of poverty than the national rate. All of the 10 states with the lowest median income in 2012 also had among the highest poverty rates in the country. While 15.9% of Americans fell below the poverty line in 2012, nearly one in four Mississippians did.

Employment is one of the biggest factors affecting income. In some states with lower unemployment, a higher share of the households had steady income, which bolsters the state’s median. In many of the highest-income states, like New Hampshire, Minnesota and Hawaii, unemployment in 2012 was less than 6%, compared to a national rate of 8.1%.

Elise Gould, Director of Health Policy for Economic Policy Institute, explained that unemployment rates can have a significant effect on a state’s household income. “When we’re talking about average families and poor families, the vast majority of income comes from wages. So it’s about jobs.” Gould cautioned, however, that unemployment rates do not tell the full story.

Unemployment rates, for example, ignore those people who have given up looking for work or accept part-time work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while 8.1% of American workers were unemployed in 2012, 14.7% were underemployed, meaning they wanted to work full time but could not. This was an increase from roughly 10% in 2008.

The types of jobs available in each state also affect income. A review of Census Bureau industry composition data shows that people in most of the states with a higher median income were often more likely to be employed in information, finance, professional and other positions that tend to pay higher salaries. Maryland, the wealthiest state in the country, had the highest percentage of workers in professional, scientific and management positions.

At the same time, many of the low-income states had smaller percentages of these professional occupations and higher rates of employment in retail, manufacturing and transportation. The high proportion of manufacturing jobs in low-income states might be surprising, but, explained Danziger, the makeup of the manufacturing industry in the country has changed.

“There’s a difference between unionized auto company workers and non-unionized parts suppliers,” Danziger said. “Even when manufacturers haven’t cut wages, they are adopting labor-saving technological change.”

To identify the states with the highest and lowest median household income, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state data on income from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey (ACS). Based on Census treatment, median household income for all years is adjusted for inflation. We also reviewed unemployment data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2012, as well as 2012 ACS data on health insurance coverage, employment and poverty.

These are America’s richest and poorest states.

1. Maryland
> Median household income: $71,122
> Population: 5,884,563 (19th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.8% (17th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.3% (3rd lowest)

Maryland was the only state in the country with a median household income to exceed $70,000 in both 2011 and 2012. Also, nearly 11% of households in Maryland earned $200,000 or more last year, the third-highest percentage in the nation and close to double the national rate of 5.9%. People in Maryland were more likely to be employed and to hold good jobs. Just 6.8% of the workforce was unemployed in 2012, compared to 8.1% nationwide. Conversely, 15.5% of the workforce, the highest percentage in the nation, were employed in professional, scientific and management occupations, which are generally high skill and high pay.

Also Read: CEOs Whose Companies Made Them Rich

2. New Jersey
> Median household income: $69,667
> Population: 8,864,590 (11th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.5% (tied-5th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.8% (5th lowest)

The median household income in New Jersey was just shy of $70,000 in 2012. This was due in part to the large number of especially wealthy households. More than 11% of households had an income of at least $200,000 in 2012, a higher percentage than any other state except Connecticut, and nearly double the national rate. But not all residents were well off in 2012. The state’s unemployment rate for the year was 9.5%, among the highest in the nation. Also, the percentage of households that depended on food stamps rose from 8.0% in 2011 to 9.3% last year. This mirrored a nationwide trend: The number of American households on food stamps rose to from 13.0% to 13.6% between 2011 and 2012.

3. Alaska
> Median household income: $67,712
> Population: 731,449 (4th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.0% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.1% (2nd lowest)

In spite of Alaska’s high median household income — and the nation’s second-lowest poverty rate — over 20% of the population did not have health insurance last year, more than all but two other states. This could be due in part to the state’s high volume of seasonal employees, who are much less likely to have health insurance. Alaska’s oil production also bolsters residents’ income, with most collecting dividend payments from the state’s reinvested oil savings.

4. Connecticut
> Median household income: $67,276
> Population: 3,590,347 (22nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.4% (tied-14th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.7% (4th lowest)

Connecticut’s median household income fell considerably from 2008, when a typical family in the state took in $73,075 annually. This mirrored broader trends in the rest of the U.S., as nationwide median household income fell from over $55,000 in 2008 to $51,371 in 2012. Still, 11.5% of the state’s households earned at least $200,000 in 2012, the most in the U.S. Connecticut also remains one of the states with the worst income inequality in the nation, ahead of only New York.

5. Hawaii
> Median household income: $66,259
> Population: 1,392,313 (11th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.8% (12th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.6% (8th lowest)

Over 16% of people in Hawaii worked in arts and entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services last year, the second highest percentage in the country. This reflects the state’s strong retirement and tourism economy. The unemployment rate in Hawaii declined only slightly in 2012 from the year before, but remained well below the U.S. rate, at just 5.8%. Over that time, Hawaii was also one of a handful of states to see a meaningful increase in income. Median household income rose by more than $3,000, to $66,259.

6. Massachusetts
> Median household income: $65,339
> Population: 6,646,144 (14th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.7% (16th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.9% (11th lowest)

Massachusetts was one of just four states with a significant increase in median household income between 2011 and 2012. Last year, median household income rose to $65,339, from $64,311 the year before. The many colleges and universities in the Boston area are a major source of high-paying jobs in the state. Nearly 28% of working residents in Massachusetts were employed in education, health care or social assistance, the most in the nation. Additionally, just 3.9% of the state’s population lacked health insurance last year, lowest of all 50 states and well below the 14.8% figure nationwide. This may be partly because of the state’s own health care reform measures, passed in 2006. These reforms are often seen as a model for the federal government’s 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Also Read: The Countries with the Most Multimillionaires

7. New Hampshire
> Median household income: $63,280
> Population: 1,320,718 (9th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.5% (8th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 10.0% (the lowest)

In addition to being one of the wealthiest states in the nation, New Hampshire also had the lowest poverty rate last year. Just 10% of people in the state had an income that placed them below the poverty line, versus nearly 16% nationwide. Similarly, just 2.7% of households earned less than $10,000 in 2012 — again the lowest rate in the nation and nearly half the national rate of 5%. Also demonstrating how well residents in the state are doing, just 8.3% of households received food stamps in 2012, the lowest percentage in the nation, while the state had an unemployment rate of only 5.5%.

8. Virginia
> Median household income: $61,741
> Population: 8,185,867 (12th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.9% (13th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.7% (9th lowest)

Median household income in Virginia declined from over $65,000 in 2008 to an estimated $61,741 last year. The unemployment rate improved from 6.4% in 2011 to 5.9% last year. Nearly 10% of Virginian households earned at least $200,000 in 2012, one of the highest rates nationally. One reason for these high incomes may be the concentration of high-skilled jobs in professional, scientific and management fields, which can pay well. Individuals in occupations within these groups accounted for 15% of Virginia’s workforce, more than any state except Maryland.

9. Minnesota
> Median household income: $58,906
> Population: 5,379,139 (21st highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.6% (9th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.4% (7th lowest)

Minnesota had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country last year, at 5.6%, compared to a national rate of 8.9%. Most of the states with high median household incomes also had smaller populations of impoverished residents, and Minnesota was no exception. The state’s poverty rate was among the lowest in the nation, at 11.4%. Further, just 3.3% of Minnesota households earned an income of less than $10,000 in 2012, compared to a national rate of 5.0%.

10. Delaware
> Median household income: $58,415
> Population: 917,092 (6th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.1% (tied-23rd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12.0% (12th lowest)

Delaware’s median household income declined from more than $62,000 in 2008 to $58,415 last year — still well above the national median. One reason for this may be the relatively large number of workers in finance, insurance and real estate. These jobs, which tend to pay well, accounted for almost 10% of employment in the state. Delaware also had a high percentage of residents with health insurance, with only 8.8% lacking coverage.

Click here for the ten poorest states

11. California
> Median household income: $58,328
> Population: 38,041,430 (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.5% (2nd highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.0% (18th highest)

In California, as well as in New York and Colorado, more people work in the information industry — which tends to have high-skill, high-paying jobs — than in any other industry. Last year, California was among the states with the highest percentage of households earning incomes exceeding $200,000. In spite of these signs of wealth, the unemployment rate in California was dismal — second-worst in the country — even though it improved significantly in 2012.

12. Washington
> Median household income: $57,573
> Population: 6,897,012 (13th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.2% (tied-17th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.5% (19th lowest)

As in much of the nation, food stamp usage rose in Washington last year, from 14.5% of residents in 2011 to 15.1% in 2012. Echoing another nationwide trend, poverty has been on the rise in Washington in recent years. The state’s poverty rate rose from 11.4% in 2008 to 13.5% in 2012. Similarly, median household income dropped by about $4,000 in that time. The state remains home to one of the nation’s larger concentrations of workers employed in professional, scientific and management positions, which usually pay well. Among the large companies with presences in or around Seattle are Amazon.com, Boeing, and Microsoft.

13. Utah
> Median household income: $57,049
> Population: 2,855,287 (17th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12.8% (15th lowest)

Utah had the 10th-lowest poverty rate in the country in 2012. The gap between the rich and poor was also among the smallest in the country. In the Salt Lake City area, more children have upward economic mobility than in any other large urban area. Utah’s has one of the healthiest labor markets in the country, with the the state’s unemployment rate falling from 14th lowest in the U.S. in 2011 to 10th lowest in 2012.

14. Colorado
> Median household income: $56,765
> Population: 5,187,582 (22nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.0% (tied-19th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.7% (tied-20th lowest)

Colorado had the third-greatest concentration of professional, scientific and management workers in 2012. Only Virginia and Maryland had a higher concentration. The large number of these workers, who are generally well paid, is likely contributing to the state’s relatively high median income. An estimated 6.6% of households earned over $200,000 last year, more than the large majority of states. Sadly, Colorado has recently been ravaged by flooding, which has threatened to cut into the state’s multi-billion dollar tourist economy. As of last year, 11% of workers were employed in recreation, accommodation, food services and similar jobs, many of which exist to support tourism.

Also read: The Best States To Be Unemployed

15. New York
> Median household income: $56,448
> Population: 19,570,261 (3rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.5% (13th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 15.9% (tied-22nd highest)

New York’s median income in 2012 was more than $5,000 higher than the national income, yet its poverty rate was the same as the nationwide rate of 15.9%. Further, 15.5% of New Yorkers received food stamps in 2012, well above the national rate of 13.6%. The state had the most extreme income inequality in the country. This was particularly the case in the state’s namesake city. According to an analysis published by the Bloomberg administration in April, which used New York City’s own measurements of poverty, an estimated 46% of city residents lived in poverty or near poverty in 2011.

16. Illinois
> Median household income: $55,137
> Population: 12,875,255 (5th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.9% (10th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 14.7% (tied-24th lowest)

The percentage of Illinois residents relying on food stamps was below the national rate in 2012. SImilarly, the poverty rate in the state was slightly less than nationwide. Despite these signs of prosperity, Illinois’ unemployment rate of 8.9% was among the 10 worst in the country last year.

17. Wyoming
> Median household income: $54,901
> Population: 576,412 (the lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.4% (7th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12.6% (13th lowest)

Wyoming is the nation’s least populous state, with roughly 576,000 residents in 2012. Despite its small size, the state is among the nation’s leading energy producers. Wyoming produced 40% of the nation’s coal in 2011, the most of any other state by far. It also produced nearly 10% of the nation’s natural gas, more than all but two other states, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Due in part to the booming energy economy, the state’s median household income, at close to $55,000, is well above the U.S. median. Just 7% of Wyoming residents received food stamps in 2012, the lowest of any state.

18. Rhode Island
> Median household income: $54,554
> Population: 1,050,292 (8th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.4% (3rd highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.7% (tied-20th lowest)

The unemployment rate in Rhode Island was well above the national rate in 2011 and 2012, ranking third highest in the country both years. Compared with other states in New England, Rhode Island had the highest percentage of households living on less than $10,000 a year, although it was lower than the national rate. Over the last few years, low-income families have been relying more on government programs. The percentage of households depending on food stamps nearly doubled between 2008 and 2012 — rising from 7.9% to 15.4%.

19. North Dakota
> Median household income: $53,585
> Population: 699,628 (3rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.1% (the lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.2% (6th lowest)

North Dakota has been by far the nation’s fastest growing state in recent years. In both 2010 and 2011, its GDP rose by more than 7%, while in 2012, it grew by more than 13%, according to estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Income has also consistently increased in recent years, with median annual household income jumping by nearly $5,000 from 2008 to 2012. Much of this is due to the development of oil exploration and production operations in the Bakken shale region. Overall, North Dakota’s crude oil production increased fivefold between 2007 and 2012, according to the EIA.

20. Vermont
> Median household income: $52,977
> Population: 626,011 (2nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.0% (4th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 11.8% (10th lowest)

Vermont recently passed health care legislation, moving the state towards a universal, single-payer system. This attempt to expand health insurance coverage seems to be working. In 2008, the state ranked fifth lowest in the country, with 8.8% of residents lacking health care insurance. Last year, it moved up to second place — behind Massachusetts — with only 6.5% uninsured. Vermont had the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the country last year, at just 5%.

21. Pennsylvania
> Median household income: $51,230
> Population: 12,763,536 (6th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.9% (21st highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.7% (tied-20th lowest)

Pennsylvania’s median household income of $51,230 was inline with the national level in 2012. However, the median income in the Philadelphia metro area was much higher, at over $60,000 in 2012. This was well above the median for all metro areas of $53,607. Despite the higher incomes, poverty remains prominent within the city limits. “Poverty is also a fact of life for about 40 percent of its households headed by single mothers,” a July editorial in The Philadelphia Enquirer noted. It added, “You can easily link the child-poverty rate to the challenges facing city schools.” Philadelphia’s school district began the school year with a $304 million budget shortfall.

22. Wisconsin
> Median household income: $51,059
> Population: 5,726,398 (20th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (tied-19th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.2% (17th lowest)

Wisconsin’s median household income was close to that of the nation as a whole in 2012. As in the rest of the country, more Wisconsin residents received food stamps in 2012 than the year before — up to 13.3% from 12.7%. During his gubernatorial campaign in 2010, Governor Scott Walker pledged to create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin. He reiterated his pledge in August, although figures from the state’s own economic outlook suggest he will likely fall short of this goal.

23. Iowa
> Median household income: $50,957
> Population: 3,074,186 (21st lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.2% (tied-5th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 12.7% (14th lowest)

Iowa had among the lowest income inequality of all states in 2012, as measured by the Gini coefficient. At 5.2%, the state’s unemployment rate was roughly three percentage points better than the national rate, and tied with Oklahoma for fifth-lowest overall. Nearly 500,000 Iowa residents were employed in manufacturing as of 2012, or about 15% of the entire workforce.

24. Texas
> Median household income: $50,740
> Population: 26,059,203 (2nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.8% (tied-17th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.9% (tied-11th lowest)

While Texas’ median income is actually very close to the national level, the state has one of the worst poverty rates in the country. Last year, 17.9% of Texans lived below the poverty line, higher than the majority of states, and well above the U.S. rate of 15.9% for all Americans. By some measures, the state’s economy is improving. The unemployment rate of 6.8% in 2012 was lower than the year before. Additionally, a large number of the major metro areas across the country that had the strongest economic growth last year were located in Texas. Despite all the improvements, the state still has by far the worst rate of health insurance coverage in the country, with 22.5% of residents uninsured.

25. Nebraska
> Median household income: $50,723
> Population: 1,855,525 (14th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.9% (2nd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.0% (16th lowest)

While Nebraska fell roughly in the middle of all states for median household income in 2012, by many other measures of economic well-being, the state actually rated favorably. Just 3.4% of households earned less than $10,000 in 2012, among the lowest percentages of any state. And just 9.3% of residents received food stamps, also among the lowest percentages nationwide. Further, only North Dakota had an unemployment rate lower than Nebraska’s 3.9% in 2012. As of this summer, Nebraska has finally recovered the net jobs lost during the recession, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Also Read: States Where It Is Hardest To Find Full-time Work

26. Kansas
> Median household income: $50,241
> Population: 2,885,905 (18th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.7% (tied-10th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 14.0% (23rd lowest)

Compared with other states, Kansans did not rely heavily on food stamps last year. Only 9.9% of households depended on them, one of the lowest rates nationally. Similarly, just 3.4% of Kansas households earned less than $10,000 in 2012, tied with Nebraska for seventh lowest in the country. The median household income in Kansas, however, was roughly $1,000 less than the national median last year. In 2008, the gap was greater than $2,000. Last year, the state’s unemployment rate of 5.7% was over two percentage points below the national rate and ranked 10th best in the country. More recently, labor officials in Kansas have raised concerns over worsening job prospects and rising unemployment in 2013.

27. Nevada
> Median household income: $49,760
> Population: 2,758,931 (16th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 11.1% (the highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 16.4% (19th highest)

Nevada’s median household income cratered in recent years, falling from more than $60,000 in 2008 to just $49,760 in 2012. Over that same time, the percentage of residents receiving food stamps more than doubled, from 5.2% in 2008 to 12.6% in 2012. Another major problem is a lack of health insurance: as many as 22.2% of Nevadans were uninsured in 2012, the second most in the nation and well above the U.S. rate of 14.8%. And while the state’s unemployment rate fell by a nation-best 2.1 percentage points between 2011 and 2012, Nevada’s unemployment rate of 11.1% last year was still the worst in the country.

28. Oregon
> Median household income: $49,161
> Population: 3,899,353 (24th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.7% (11th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.2% (tied-15th highest)

More than one in five households in Oregon depended on food stamps last year, more than any other state, and nearly double the 2008 rate, when it ranked ninth. Poverty levels tended to be higher in the rural counties, and families in these regions relied the most on government programs like food stamps. In 2012, unemployment in Oregon was among the worst, at 8.7%. The decline in annual median household income as of 2012 mirrors the national decline of about $4,000 when compared to 2008.

29. South Dakota
> Median household income: $48,362
> Population: 833,354 (5th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.4% (3rd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 13.4% (18th lowest)

South Dakota had the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country. The state also had among the smallest gaps between the wealthy and poor. Between 2008 and 2012, the median household income in South Dakota fell by only $908, roughly $3,000 less than the national decline. More than 7% of workers in South Dakota were employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, and mining last year. This was partly because of the state’s substantial corn and livestock industries.

30. Arizona
> Median household income: $47,826
> Population: 6,553,255 (15th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.3% (16th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 18.7% (8th highest)

Although 20 states had an even lower median household income, Arizona still had one of the nation’s highest poverty rates at 18.7% in 2012. Further, an estimated 5.7% of households earned less than $10,000 last year, worse than the majority of states. Many residents also lacked health care. As of 2012, 17.6% of the state’s population did not have health insurance coverage, versus 14.8% across the U.S. Recently, Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer has become an outspoken supporter of a key provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that allows states to extend Medicaid coverage to more residents at little cost.

31. Georgia
> Median household income: $47,209
> Population: 9,919,945 (8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.0% (9th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 19.2% (6th highest)

Nearly 7% of households in Georgia earned less than $10,000 in 2012, tied with Louisiana for the fourth-highest percentage in the country. Nearly one in five people in the state, about 1.9 million, lived below the poverty line — the sixth-worst level of poverty in the country. Although it improved slightly faster than the country as a whole between 2011 and 2012, the unemployment rate remained above the national rate at 9%. Nearly 20% of Georgians were without health care insurance last year, the sixth-highest rate in the country. However, record numbers of people are enrolling in Medicaid. Governor Nathan Deal said the state will choose to opt-out of the expanded Medicaid provision in the Affordable Care Act.

32. Indiana
> Median household income: $46,974
> Population: 6,537,334 (16th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.4% (tied-14th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 15.6% (24th highest)

About one in five of Indiana workers are employed in manufacturing, a greater proportion than in any other state. In some regions, like Plymouth, the manufacturing industry is not only dominant, but flourishing. The unemployment rate in the state was only slightly higher than the national rate last year, and household incomes have declined at roughly the same pace as the median household income for the entire country since 2008.

33. Michigan
> Median household income: $46,859
> Population: 9,883,360 (9th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.1% (tied-7th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.4% (14th highest)

Michigan’s economy contracted by 9% in 2009, one of the worst contractions that year. By 2012 the state’s economy grew by 2.2%, still lower than the country’s growth that year. Similarly, median household incomes remained about $4,700 below 2008 levels — more than the decline nationwide. The state’s unemployment rate, though also improved, was among the worst in the nation at 9.1% in 2012. Further, nearly 18% of households in Michigan received food stamps in 2012, more than all but three other states, and up from just 12.2% in 2008. State lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would make community service mandatory for all food stamp recipients.

Also Read: America’s Richest (and Poorest) States

34. Ohio
> Median household income: $46,829
> Population: 11,544,225 (7th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.2% (25th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 16.3% (20th highest)

More than 15% of Ohio workers were employed in the manufacturing sector in 2012, higher than all but three other states, which include neighboring Michigan. As a result of the heavy concentration in the sector, recent improvements in manufacturing activity have been beneficial for Ohio job-seekers. In 2012, the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.2% from 8.6% the year before. This was one of the largest declines in the country. Still, the state has yet to recover many of the jobs lost during the recession, especially in construction; the sector employed just 5.2% of Ohio workers last year, less than nearly all other states in the nation.

35. Maine
> Median household income: $46,709
> Population: 1,329,192 (10th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (tied-23th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 14.7% (tied-24th lowest)

Maine’s poverty rate was lower than the national rate in 2012, as was the proportion of households that earned under $10,000 that year. Despite this, nearly 18% of Maine households relied on food stamp benefits, tied with Michigan for the fourth most in the country. Governor Paul LePage expressed some concern over the rising number of falsified food stamp applications, which cost the state $700,000 a year. Nearly 14% of jobs in Maine are in the retail sector, compared to 11.6% nationally. The sector typically includes low-paying, low-skilled jobs.

36. Idaho
> Median household income: $45,489
> Population: 1,595,728 (12th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.1% (tied-23rd lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 15.9% (tied-22nd highest)

Idaho’s median household income fell by more than $5,000 between 2008 and 2012, well above the national decline. The state was among the hardest hit by the housing crisis, which also contributed to the decline in income. While the unemployment rate fell from 8.3% in 2011 to 7.1% in 2012, total employment has yet to return to its pre-recession levels. Similarly, construction employment — which accounted for 7.5% of the state’s workforce in 2012, more than in all but a handful of states — has also yet to recover from the downturn in the state’s housing market. Idaho also had fewer high-income households than all but several other states in 2012, with just 2.8% earning at least $200,000 that year.

37. Missouri
> Median household income: $45,321
> Population: 6,021,988 (18th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (tied-19th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 16.2% (21st highest)

The unemployment rate in Missouri fell by 1.5 percentage points between 2011 and 2012, the third-greatest decline in the nation, behind only Florida and Nevada. Despite this encouraging statistic, median household income dropped about $4,500 between 2008 and 2012, slightly above the nation’s decline. The percentage of households earning less than $10,000 in 2012 was also close to the national rate. Meanwhile, 3.7% of families earned more than $200,000 in 2012, well below the national figure of 5.9%.

38. North Carolina
> Median household income: $45,150
> Population: 9,752,073 (10th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.5% (tied-4th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 18.0% (10th highest)

North Carolina’s unemployment rate of 9.5% was one of the nation’s highest in 2012. In addition, the state also had one of the nation’s worst poverty rates, with 18% of the population living below the poverty line. Last year, according to the News & Observer, a state lawmaker stated that no one in North Carolina lived in extreme poverty, claiming “poverty [means] you’re out there living on a dollar and half a day. I don’t think we have anybody in North Carolina doing that.” These comments drew substantial criticism from groups that work to fight poverty. According to the census, 6% of households lived on income of less than $10,000 last year. This was one of the highest rates in the country.

39. Montana
> Median household income: $45,076
> Population: 1,005,141 (7th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.0% (14th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 15.5% (25th highest)

Montana’s poverty rate of 15.5% in 2012 was similar to the national rate. Also, just 3.8% of its households made less than $10,000 that year — versus 5% nationwide. Yet, the state’s median household income was more than $6,000 below lower than the U.S. median income in 2012. Several industries that actually pay fairly well were highly concentrated in the state. Employment in agriculture and mining accounted for 7.2% of the workforce, more than all but three states, while construction accounted for 8.1% of jobs, also among the highest rates in the nation. However, there were few exceptionally high-earning households in Montana. Just 3.4% of households made over $200,000 in 2012, among the lowest percentages in the nation.

40. Florida
> Median household income: $45,040
> Population: 19,317,568 (4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.6% (12th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.1% (17th highest)

Florida’s median household income fell by more than $5,000 between 2008 and 2012. The state was ranked among the worst for income inequality in the nation. While it had one of the country’s largest proportions of workers employed in high-paying professional, scientific and management positions, as well as in finance and insurance, it also had the highest concentration of jobs in generally low-paying retail and tourism sectors. Still, the state’s unemployment rate fell substantially in 2012, from 10.3% in 2011 to 8.6% in 2012, and employment has been steadily rising, albeit slowly.

41. Oklahoma
> Median household income: $44,312
> Population: 3,814,820 (23rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.2% (tied-5th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.2% (tied-15th highest)

Oklahoma’s median household income was $7,000 less than the national median in 2012. The state also ranked among the lowest in the country for health insurance coverage, with more than 18% of the population lacking coverage as of last year. However, median household income did not decline as much as it did in the rest of the country during the recession. Between 2008 and 2012, the national median income fell by nearly $4,000, but in Oklahoma the drop was just slightly over $1,000. With the state’s economy heavily reliant on the energy industry, rising oil prices helped cushion the effects of the recession.

Also Read: The Worst Economies in the World

42. South Carolina
> Median household income: $43,107
> Population: 4,723,723 (24th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.1% (tied-7th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 18.3% (9th highest)

Like many states, South Carolina’s median household income declined substantially between 2008 and 2012 — from $47,157 to $43,107. While unemployment fell considerably between 2011 and 2012, South Carolina still had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country last year. Like a number of the states with low median household incomes, South Carolina had a higher-than-average concentration of jobs in manufacturing, at 13.8% of all workers, compared to a national rate of 10.5%.

43. Louisiana
> Median household income: $42,944
> Population: 4,601,893 (25th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.4% (15th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 19.9% (3rd highest)

Almost 20% of Louisiana residents lived below the poverty line in 2012, better only than Mississippi and New Mexico. Last year, nearly 18% of households in the state received food stamps, four percentage points above the national rate. Income inequality in the state has become worse in the past decade. As measured by the Gini index, Louisiana is among the five states with the highest income equality. It also had the fourth-highest percentage of households earning less than $10,000 in 2012.

44. Tennessee
> Median household income: $42,764
> Population: 6,456,243 (17th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.0% (tied-19th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.9% (tied-11th highest)

Tennessee’s unemployment rate fell from 9.3% to just 8.0% between 2011 and 2012, one of the largest drops in the nation. However, by many other measures, the state did not improve much in that time. Tennessee’s median household income of less than $43,000 and its poverty rate of nearly 18% were both effectively unchanged from the year before. The state also had one of the highest percentages of residents who received food stamps in 2012, at 17.7%. While Tennessee rates poorly by most measures, only 13.9% of residents lacked health insurance, better than the 14.8% figure nationwide.

45. New Mexico
> Median household income: $42,558
> Population: 2,085,538 (15th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (tied-19th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 20.8% (2nd highest)

New Mexico’s median household income was among the lowest in the country in 2012, but its poverty rate was an even larger problem. More than one in five residents lived below the poverty line in 2012, one of just two states where that was the case. An estimated 7.6% of all households were in extreme poverty, earning less than $10,000 per year. This was the highest percentage of any state except Mississippi. The percentage of households receiving food stamps rose from 15.4% in 2011 to 16.5% last year, among the highest rates in the country.

46. Kentucky
> Median household income: $41,724
> Population: 4,380,415 (25th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.2% (tied-17th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 19.4% (5th highest)

Kentucky is, by many measures, one of the most poverty-stricken states in the nation. The state’s 19.4% poverty rate in 2012 was worse than all but four states. Additionally, more than 18.0% of residents received food stamps in 2012, higher than all but two states and up from 17.4% the year before. Among the more positive developments for the state, the unemployment rate fell from 9.5% to 8.2%. But recently, concerns have risen over the state’s coal jobs. Demand for coal has declined due to low natural gas prices, as well as tougher emission controls.

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47. Alabama
> Median household income: $41,574
> Population: 4,822,023 (23rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (tied-22nd highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 19.0% (7th highest)

After falling by 1.4 percentage points, the unemployment rate in Alabama was just 7.3%, well below the national rate in 2012. Despite this improvement, families in the state still did not make very much money last year, with 6.7% of households earning less than $10,000. Only Mississippi and New Mexico had higher percentages living on so little. About one in six households relied on food stamps in 2012, making Alabama among the 10 states most dependent on these benefits. Despite the high level of poverty, only 13.3% of Alabama residents lacked health insurance last year, better than the national rate.

48. West Virginia
> Median household income: $40,196
> Population: 1,855,413 (13th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (tied-22nd highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.8% (13th highest)

While incomes declined across the country from 2008 to 2012, West Virginia’s median household income was effectively unchanged. Unfortunately, the state’s median income was still the third lowest in the U.S. The state had a high proportion of people employed in low-earning jobs, including retail, agriculture, forestry and fishing. Compared with other states with low median incomes, though, few people in West Virginia went without health care. Just 14.4% of the state’s population lacked health insurance, better than more than half of all states.

49. Arkansas
> Median household income: $40,112
> Population: 2,949,131 (19th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (tied-22nd highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 19.8% (4th highest)

Arkansas was one of just three states, along with Mississippi and West Virginia, with a median household income $10,000 below the U.S. median. The state’s poverty rate, at nearly 20%, was also among the highest in the country. Despite these problems, unemployment dropped from 7.9% in 2011 to 7.3% last year. Arkansas was also one of the nation’s worst states for food insecurity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Between 2010 and 2012, an estimated 19.8% of households had little or very little secure access to food, above the 14.7% figure for all U.S. households.

50. Mississippi
> Median household income: $37,095
> Population: 2,984,926 (20th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.2% (6th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 24.2% (the highest)

In Mississippi, about one in five households depended on food stamps last year, second only to Oregon. The state’s poverty rate was 24.2%, the highest in the nation by more than three percentage points. Like many of America’s poorest states, the median household income in Mississippi has declined considerably since 2008, when it was just over $40,000. Fewer households earned over $200,000 last year, proportionally, than any other state except West Virginia. In addition to poverty, income inequality was also extremely severe in Mississippi, ranking behind only New York and Connecticut.

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