Special Report

The Poorest County in Every State

Source: Ken Lund / Flickr

11. Hawaii County, Hawaii
> County median household income: $53,936
> State median household income: $71,977
> Poverty rate: 18.7%
> Nov. unemployment: 2.4%

Hawai’i County comprises the Island of Hawai’i, the largest and southeasternmost of the Hawaiian Islands by land area. The typical household in the state of Hawaii earns $71,977 a year, the fourth highest median household income of any state. In Hawai’i County, however, the median household income is just $53,936, the lowest of any county in the state by more than $14,000 and less than the national median of $55,322. One factor contributing to the income disparity between Hawaii County and the rest of the state may be differences in the job market across Hawaii. While Hawaii County’s 2.4% unemployment rate is far less than the 4.1% national rate, it is the highest of any county in the state and higher than the 2.0% unemployment rate for Hawaii as a whole.

Source: Ken Lund / Flickr

12. Madison County, Idaho
> County median household income: $33,856
> State median household income: $49,174
> Poverty rate: 32.6%
> Nov. unemployment: 1.9%

The typical household in Madison County earns $33,856 a year, less than the median household income for Idaho as a whole of $49,174 and the least of any county in the state. While poorer areas often have low educational attainment, some 36.8% of Madison County adults have a bachelor’s degree — far more than the comparable attainment rate statewide of 26.2% and the fifth largest share of any Idaho county. Similarly, just 1.9% of the county’s workforce is unemployed, the lowest unemployment rate in Idaho and less than half the 4.1% U.S. jobless rate. One reason for the low income, high education levels, and low unemployment is likely the large share of students in the area, who often study full time or work low-paying, part-time jobs. Madison County is home to Brigham Young University-Idaho, a private university operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Source: Paul Sableman / Flickr

13. Jackson County, Illinois
> County median household income: $33,845
> State median household income: $59,196
> Poverty rate: 28.3%
> Nov. unemployment: 4.3%

The typical household in Jackson County earns just $33,845 a year, far less than the median household income for Illinois as a whole of $59,196 and the median income nationwide of $55,322. Some 28.3% of Jackson County residents live in poverty, also the largest share of any county with at least 10,000 residents in the state and nearly twice the national poverty rate of 15.1%.

While residents of poorer areas are less likely to be educated, an estimated 92.3% of adults in Jackson County have a high school diploma, and 35.9% have a bachelor’s degree — each higher than the corresponding nationwide rates of 87.0% and 30.3%. The large shares of high school- and college-educated adults is likely due to the presence of Southern Illinois University.

Source: OZinOH / Flickr

14. Blackford County, Indiana
> County median household income: $38,791
> State median household income: $50,433
> Poverty rate: 12.0%
> Nov. unemployment: 3.8%

While Blackford County was a major natural gas hub and economic powerhouse in the late 19th century, today it is the poorest county in Indiana. The county’s population declined substantially following the natural gas boom period of the late 19th century, and today it is home to 12,364 residents — far less than its peak of 17,213 in 1900. The typical household in Blackford County earns just $38,791 a year, far less than the statewide median household income of $50,433 and less than the national median of $55,322. Despite the slowdown in economic activity, a relatively small share of residents experience serious financial hardship. Just 12.0% of Blackford County residents live in poverty, one of the smaller shares in Indiana and less than the nationwide poverty rate of 15.1%.

Source: Joanna Poe / Flickr

15. Appanoose County, Iowa
> County median household income: $40,817
> State median household income: $54,570
> Poverty rate: 16.1%
> Nov. unemployment: 3.2%

Once a leading producer of coal, Appanoose County experienced substantial economic and population decline throughout the 20th century and has yet to fully recover from the loss of its primary industry. Today, Appanoose County is home to 12,602 residents, less than half of the county’s peak population of 30,535 in 1920. Some 3.2% of the county’s workforce are unemployed. While this is less than the 4.1% national jobless rate, it is far more than the 2.5% unemployment rate for Iowa as a whole and one of the highest of any county in the state. The typical Appanoose County household earns just $40,817 a year, less than the state and national median household incomes of $54,570 and $55,322, respectively.