Special Report

The Poorest County in Each State

16. Crawford County, Kansas
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $37,378
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $51,332
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 20.6%
> Unemployment, 2013: 5.6%

Between 2009 and 2013, more than one in five Crawford County residents lived in poverty, versus the national figure of 15.4%. The area’s unemployment rate, on the other hand, was relatively low, at 5.6%. While residents living in the poorest counties of other states tended to have relatively poor educational attainment rates, 90.2% of Crawford adults had completed at least high school over the five year period through 2013.

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17. McCreary County, Kentucky
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $20,972
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $43,036
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 30.3%
> Unemployment, 2013: 13.5%

During the five years prior to 2013, McCreary County households had a median annual income of less than $21,000, the lowest county-level income in Kentucky — and in the nation. The low area incomes were likely due in part to poor educational attainment rates. Less than 70% of adults had at least a high school diploma during the five years through 2013, and just 7.3% had at least a bachelor’s degree. For context, 86% of adults nationwide had at least a high school while 28.8% had at least a bachelor’s degree. McCreary County’s job market was also relatively weak, as 13.5% of the workforce was unemployed last year, versus the national rate of 7.4%.

18. Madison Parish, Louisiana
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $25,498
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $44,874
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 40.3%
> Unemployment, 2013: 9.7%

Less than three-quarters of Madison Parish residents had completed at least high school, one of the lowest rates reviewed. While nearly 30% of Americans had at least a bachelor’s degree, that rate was just 11.2% in Madison Parish. Poor educational attainment rates likely explain in part the low incomes in the area. Over the five years through 2013, a typical Madison household made just $25,498, the lowest in the state and the eighth lowest compared to other poor counties in each of the states. The area’s poverty rate was also especially high — greater than 40% over the five years through 2013. The rate for children was far worse, at 59.2% over that period.

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19. Piscataquis County, Maine
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $36,646
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $48,453
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 18.5%
> Unemployment, 2013: 9.6%

A typical household in Piscatuquis County, Maine earned $36,646 annually between 2009 and 2013, the lowest in the state, and considerably lower than the comparable national figure of $53,046. As in the poorest counties in many other states, the job market in Piscatuquis was relatively weak. Ten percent of workforce participants were unemployed in 2013, versus the national unemployment rate of 7.4% that year.

20. Somerset County, Maryland
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $38,447
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $73,538
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 23.4%
> Unemployment, 2013: 9.9%

During the five years through 2013, Maryland households had a median annual income of $73,538, the highest of any state. While wealthy states tend to have wealthier localities across the board, Somserset County, the poorest in Maryland was still relatively poor. A typical household earned less than $38,500 between 2009 and 2013, more than $35,000 less than the comparable state figure. Poor educational attainment among county residents may be partially the reason for the low incomes — 14.2% of area adults had at least a bachelor’s degree during the five years through 2013, less than half the comparable national rate of 28.8%.

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