Special Report

The Poorest County in Each State

21. Berkshire County, Massachusetts
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $48,450
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $66,866
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 12.8%
> Unemployment, 2013: 7.1%

Massachusetts residents are some of the nation’s wealthiest. Between 2009 and 2013, the state’s poorest county had a median annual household income of $48,450, not especially poor compared to other counties reviewed. As in the rest of the state, Berkshire County residents benefited from exceptionally high health insurance coverage. Just 3.3% of residents did not have health insurance over the five years through 2013, one of the best rates nationwide.

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22. Lake County, Michigan
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $29,379
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $48,411
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 27.9%
> Unemployment, 2013: 13.1%

Lake County, Michigan’s unemployment rate of nearly 12% in 2013 — well above the national rate of 7.4% — may have contributed to the area’s low incomes. A typical household earned $29,379 annually over the five years through 2013, the lowest in the state and considerably lower than the national figure of $53,046. Low college attainment rates may also explain in part the low incomes. Just 8.4% of area adults had attained at least a bachelor’s degree during the five years through 2013, one of the lowest figures reviewed.

23. Wadena County, Minnesota
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $36,928
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $59,836
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 16.9%
> Unemployment, 2013: 7.1%

While Wadena County households had far lower incomes than Minnesotans as a whole between 2009 and 2013, county residents had relatively good health coverage. Just 9.2% of residents did not have health insurance over the five years through 2013, a national uninsured rate of nearly 15%. The county’s unemployment rate was also slightly lower than the national rate of 7.4% in 2013.

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24. Holmes County, Mississippi
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $22,325
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $39,031
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 43.5%
> Unemployment, 2013: 16.5%

Mississippi had the lowest median annual household income of any state over the five years through 2013, at just $39,031 — no other state had a median income of less than $40,000. A typical household in Mississippi’s poorest county, Holmes, earned just $22,325 annually over that period. Area residents also suffered from high poverty rates. More than 43% of Holmes residents and 62.4% of children lived in poverty between 2009 and 2013, both among the highest rates reviewed.

25. Oregon County, Missouri
> County median household income, 2009-2013: $27,743
> State median household income, 2009-2013: $47,380
> Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 27.7%
> Unemployment, 2013: 6.6%

A less-educated population tends to earn lower incomes, and Oregon County, Missouri is no exception. Less than one in 10 area residents had at least a bachelor’s degree during the five years through 2013, barely one-third of the national figure. Despite the low incomes, residents were more likely to own their homes than in many other poor counties. More than 76% of housing units were owned by their occupants, versus the national homeownership rate of less than 65%.