Special Report

The Poorest County in Each State

11. Hawaii County, Hawaii
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $51,250
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $67,402
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 18.3%
> Unemployment, 2013: 6.8%

With a median annual household income of $51,250 between 2009 and 2013, people living in Hawaii’s poorest county were not especially poor when compared to the rest of the nation. However, this figure may be somewhat misleading because of the state’s remarkably high cost of living. At any rate, county residents were well-educated, and the area’s job market was relatively strong. Ninety-one percent of county adults had at least a high school diploma over the five years through 2013, versus 86% nationally. Also, 6.8% of labor force participants were unemployed in 2013, versus the national unemployment rate of 7.4%.

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12. Madison County, Idaho
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $32,059
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $46,767
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 35.8%
> Unemployment, 2013: 4.6%

With a median household income of $32,059 between 2009 and 2013, Madison is Idaho’s poorest county. Despite the low incomes, residents had relatively high educational attainment rates. Nearly 95% of adults had attained at least a high school diploma, and nearly 34% had completed at least a bachelor’s degree during the five years through 2013. Both figures were among the highest reviewed. However, low incomes likely made it difficult for residents to own their homes. Less than half of housing units in Madison were owned by their occupants, one of the lower homeownership rates.

13. Jackson County, Illinois
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $33,479
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $56,797
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 30.4%
> Unemployment, 2013: 7.9%

With a median annual household income of just $33,479 over the five years through 2013 — $23,318 less than the statewide figure — Jackson was Illinois’s poorest county. Despite the low incomes, area residents were well-educated. More than 35% of Jackson County adults had at least a bachelor’s degree over that period, one of the higher rates reviewed.

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14. Fayette County, Indiana
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $37,391
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $48,248
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 23.0%
> Unemployment, 2013: 10.3%

Less than 9% of Fayette County adults had completed at least a bachelor’s degree in the five years through 2013, a fraction of the national rate of 28.8%. The poor college attainment rate may have exacerbated the area’s poverty rate, as residents may have also found it more difficult to find a job without a higher education. Nearly one in three children lived in poverty between 2009 and 2013, and more than one in 10 labor force participants were unemployed, both well above the respective national rates.

15. Appanoose County, Iowa
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $39,208
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $51,843
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 15.2%
> Unemployment, 2013: 6.4%

A typical Appanoose household earned less than $40,000 annually between 2009 and 2013, less than in any other county in Iowa. By contrast, the state’s median annual household income over that period was $51,843, slightly lower than the national figure. While area residents had relatively low incomes, Appanoose’s 2013 unemployment rate of 6.4% was lower than the national rate of 7.4%.

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