Special Report

America's Richest (and Poorest) States

Albuquerque, New Mexico 2
Source: Thinkstock

45. New Mexico
> Median household income: $45,382
> Population: 2,085,109 (15th lowest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 6.6% (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 20.4% (2nd highest)

New Mexico’s 2015 median household income remained unchanged from 2014, reflecting little improvement in the residents’ standard of living. The typical New Mexico household earns $45,382 a year, well below the national median income of $55,775. Like in many of the poorest states, poverty also continues to be a major problem in New Mexico. The state’s poverty rate of 20.4% is the second highest in the country.

Incomes do not necessarily rise in healthy job markets, but high unemployment has a negative impact on household incomes. In 2015, 6.6% of New Mexico workers were unemployed, the third highest rate nationally.

Downtown Skyline Shreveport Louisiana
Source: Thinkstock

44. Louisiana
> Median household income: $45,727
> Population: 4,670,724 (25th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 6.3% (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.6% (3rd highest)

In addition to one of the lowest median household incomes, Louisiana has the third highest poverty rate in the country at 19.6%. Further, some state households earn incomes well below the poverty level. As many as one in 10 households earn $10,000 or less a year, the second highest such share of any state. Workers out of a job likely helped reduce median incomes in the state. At 6.3%, the state’s 2015 unemployment rate was sixth highest of all states.

Statewide, homes are valued at just $155,600, or more than $30,000 below the national benchmark of $194,500.

Charleston, South Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

43. South Carolina
> Median household income: $47,238
> Population: 4,896,146 (23rd highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 6.0% (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.6% (11th highest)

The typical household in South Carolina makes $47,238 a year, eighth lowest of all states. However, this figure is up significantly from 2014, when the median income, adjusted for inflation, was $45,277. Like in many of the poorest states, poverty remains a major problem. South Carolina’s poverty rate of 16.6% is 11th highest of any state. The state also faces a high jobless rate. In 2015, 6.0% of workers were unemployed, the 10 highest rate nationally.

Homes values in South Carolina, at just $148,600, are more than $40,000 below the national median home value of $194,500. While the low home values mirror the state’s low incomes, they also speak to the low cost of living in the state, which on average is nearly 10% cheaper than across the nation.

City of Kingsport, Tennessee At Night
Source: Thinkstock

42. Tennessee
> Median household income: $47,275
> Population: 6,600,299 (17th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 5.8% (14th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.7% (10th highest)

As was the case in most states, Tennessee’s median household income of $47,275 increased significantly from 2014, when the median income was $44,403. Still, Tennesseans are not wealthy. In addition to one of the lowest median household incomes, 16.7% of people live in poverty, the 10th highest poverty rate of all states.

Government programs help millions of impoverished Americans make ends meet, especially in the nation’s poorest states. In Tennessee, 17.6% of households rely on food stamps, a higher percentage than in all but two other states.

Sunset Beach, North Carolina
Source: Wikimedia Commons

41. North Carolina
> Median household income: $47,830
> Population: 10,042,802 (9th highest)
> 2015 Unemployment rate: 5.7% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.4% (12th highest)

North Carolina is one of the poorest states in the nation with a median household income of $47,830 a year. This figure is notably higher than in 2014, however, when median income, adjusted for inflation, was $46,585. Despite the improvement, poverty is still high in the state. At 16.4%, the state’s poverty rate is 12th highest of all states.

Low incomes tend to accompany low home values — and North Carolina is a case in point. Statewide, homes are valued at just $160,100, or more than $30,000 below the national median value of $194,500.

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