Special Report

The Poorest County in Each State

41. Shannon County, South Dakota
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $25,648
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $49,495
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 53.2%
> Unemployment, 2013: 12.9%

As in other especially poor areas, Shannon County’s job market was relatively weak. The area’s unemployment rate of 12.9% in 2013 may partly explain low incomes. Shannon County residents also struggled with poverty. More than 53% of the area’s population lived below the poverty line over the five years through 2013, by far the highest such rate of any of the 50 countries reviewed. Children, who tend to be disproportionately impacted by poverty, were even more likely to live in poverty. More than 60% of children in the area lived in poverty between 2009 and 2013. Nearly 41% of adults did not have health insurance over the five-year period through 2013, the worst rate among all counties reviewed.

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42. Grundy County, Tennessee
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $26,814
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $44,298
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 29.7%
> Unemployment, 2013: 9.5%

A typical household in Grundy County earned less than $27,000 annually between 2009 and 2013. This was especially poor even in Tennessee, where statewide incomes tended to be among the lowest in the nation. Low educational attainment rates partly explain the relatively low incomes. Only 10% of Grundy adults had at least a bachelor’s degree, and just 70.5% had completed at least high school, both among the lower rates reviewed.

43. Starr County, Texas
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $24,927
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $51,900
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 39.2%
> Unemployment, 2013: 15.4%

With a median annual household income of less than $25,000 between 2009 and 2013 — less than half the comparable state figure — Starr County was one of the poorest in the nation. Low incomes were likely related to a range of economic factors in the area: Nearly 40% of residents did not have health insurance during the five years through 2013; a majority of children were estimated to be living in poverty over that period; and 15.4% of the workforce was unemployed in 2013. All of these figures were among the nation’s worst. In addition, just 45% of adults had finished at least high school, and 8.6% had at least a bachelor’s degree, both among the lowest rates nationwide.

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44. San Juan County, Utah
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $40,492
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $58,821
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 27.1%
> Unemployment, 2013: 9.3%

While San Juan County households earned far less than most Americans, they were among the most likely to own their own homes. More than 81% of county housing units were owned by their occupants, one of the highest homeownership rates nationwide. Low incomes still likely had a negative impact on residents. For example, more than 27% of residents went without health insurance during the five years through 2013, versus just under 15% nationwide.

45. Orleans County, Vermont
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $41,953
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $54,267
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 15.4%
> Unemployment, 2013: 6.2%

Vermont households had a median income of $54,267 between 2009 and 2013, slightly higher than the comparable national figure. But a typical household in Orleans County — the state’s poorest — earned much less, with a median annual income of nearly $42,000. While the poorest counties in many other states, less than 10% of Orleans residents did not have health insurance between 2009 and 2013, which was also better than the national figure of nearly 15%. The county’s 2013 unemployment rate of 6.2% was also lower than the national rate.

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