Special Report

America's Richest and Poorest States

Source: Thinkstock

45. Kentucky
> Median household income: $46,659
> Population: 4,436,974 (25th lowest)
> 2016 Unemployment rate: 5.0% (18th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (4th highest)

Kentucky’s median annual household income of $46,659 is the sixth lowest in the country, and its poverty rate is fourth highest. Though the U.S. poverty rate fell from 14.7% in 2015 to 14.0% in 2016, Kentucky’s poverty rate remained flat at 18.5%.

Across broad populations, incomes tend to go up with educational attainment. In Kentucky, only 23.4% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a smaller share than in all but four other states, and a considerably smaller share than the 31.3% of adults nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

44. New Mexico
> Median household income: $46,748
> Population: 2,081,015 (15th lowest)
> 2016 Unemployment rate: 6.7% (the highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (3rd highest)

New Mexico’s 6.7% jobless rate is the highest of any state and well above the 4.9% U.S. unemployment rate. The lack of available employment opportunities likely contributes to lower incomes across the state. The typical household in the state earns only $46,748 a year, nearly $11,000 below the $57,617 national median household income.

State residents are also more likely than most Americans to face serious financial hardship. Nearly 1 in every 5 New Mexico residents live in poverty, the third highest poverty rate of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

43. Tennessee
> Median household income: $48,547
> Population: 6,651,194 (16th highest)
> 2016 Unemployment rate: 4.8% (25th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.8% (11th highest)

Tennessee’s median household income remained effectively unchanged from 2015 to 2016. Meanwhile, the state’s poverty rate improved slightly from 16.7% to 15.8%, falling just outside the 10 states with the highest poverty rates. The share of families in the state receiving food stamps also declined, from 16% to 14.6%.

Low incomes across Tennessee are reflected in property values across the state. The typical Tennessee home is worth $157,700 — considerably less than the $205,000 median home value nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

42. Oklahoma
> Median household income: $49,176
> Population: 3,923,561 (23rd lowest)
> 2016 Unemployment rate: 4.9% (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.3% (9th highest)

With a median household income of $49,176, Oklahoma is one of only 10 states where a majority of households earn less than $50,000 a year. In a break from the national trend, conditions did not improve for many of Oklahoma’s poorest citizens over the past year. While the U.S. poverty rate fell from 14.7% to 14.0% between 2015 and 2016, Oklahoma’s poverty rate remained effectively unchanged at 16.3%.

In addition to a relatively high poverty rate, a far larger than typical share of Oklahoma residents lack health insurance. Some 13.8% of state residents are uninsured, a larger share than in all but two other states and well above the 8.6% U.S. uninsured rate.

Source: Thinkstock

41. South Carolina
> Median household income: $49,501
> Population: 4,961,119 (23rd highest)
> 2016 Unemployment rate: 4.8% (25th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.3% (14th highest)

Most of the 10 poorest states are in the South, as is South Carolina. Despite ranking among the poorest states, incomes climbed more in South Carolina last year than they did on average across the country. The typical South Carolina household earned $49,501 in 2016, up $1,711 from 2015. In comparison, the typical U.S. household earned $57,617 in 2016, up $1,340 over 2015.

In keeping with rapid income growth, South Carolina’s job market improved markedly last year. Only 4.8% of the state’s workforce are out of a job compared to the 4.9% U.S. unemployment rate. In 2015, South Carolina’s unemployment rate of 6.0% was well above the comparable 5.3% U.S. rate.

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