The Poorest County in Each State

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1. Sumter County, Alabama
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $22,186
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $43,253
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 38.0%
> Unemployment, 2013: 9.9%

Alabama had a median annual household income of $43,253 over the five years through 2013, one of the lowest in the nation. A typical Sumter County household earned barely more than half of that figure, with a median annual household income of $22,186 between 2009 and 2013. Sumter County also had one of the nation’s highest poverty rates. Between 2009 and 2013, 38% of residents lived in poverty, versus the comparable national poverty rate of 15.4%.

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2. Bethel Census Area, Alaska
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $51,689
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $70,760
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 22.8%
> Unemployment, 2013: 15.4%

A typical household in Bethel — the poorest part of Alaska — earned nearly $52,000 annually between 2009 and 2013. While this figure was over $19,000 lower than the state’s median household income, Bethel households did not earn much less than a typical American household. Bethel’s unemployment rate, on the other hand, was quite high, at 15.4% in 2013.

3. Apache County, Arizona
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $31,476
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $49,774
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 36.2%
> Unemployment, 2013: 19.8%

Residents of Arizona’s poorest county clearly struggled with poverty over the five years through 2013. Apache County’s poverty rate of more than 36% was more than double the national rate of 15.4% and one of the highest among the states’ poorest counties. Apache also had one of the highest unemployment rates in 2013, at nearly 20%.

4. Lee County, Arkansas
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $25,034
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $40,768
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 31.5%
> Unemployment, 2013: 11.2%

During the five years through 2013, Arkansas had a median annual household income of less than $41,000, lower than in every state except for Mississippi. A typical household in Lee County, the state’s poorest, earned nearly $16,000 less than the statewide figure. As in other poor counties, Lee residents had relatively low educational attainment rates. Just 7.1% of adults had completed at least a bachelor’s degree between 2009 and 2013, and 70.1% had finished at least high school, some of the lower rates among the 50 counties reviewed.

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5. Lake County, California
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $36,548
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $61,094
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 25.0%
> Unemployment, 2013: 11.9%

As in many low-income areas, California’s Lake County had a relatively high poverty rate. The county’s poverty rate between 2009 and 2013 was 25%, versus a national rate of 15.4%. More than 35% of children were estimated to be living in poverty over that period as well, considerably higher than the national rate of 21.3%.