Special Report

The Poorest County in Every State

Source: takomabibelot / Flickr

21. Hampden County, Massachusetts
> County median household income: $51,005
> State median household income: $70,954
> Poverty rate: 17.6%
> Nov. unemployment: 4.4%

The typical Massachusetts household earns $70,954 a year, far more than the $55,322 the typical U.S. household earns. However, not all parts of the state are as well off financially. Hampden County, where the typical household earns only $51,005 a year, is one of only two counties in the state with a lower median income than the U.S. as a whole.

Home to the city of Springfield and located along the Connecticut border, Hampden County is the least expensive place to live in Massachusetts. The typical home in the county is worth $196,500. Meanwhile, the typical home in the vast majority of counties in the state is worth more than a quarter million dollars.

Source: J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

22. Lake County, Michigan
> County median household income: $30,824
> State median household income: $50,803
> Poverty rate: 27.2%
> Nov. unemployment: 6.9%

The typical Lake County household earns just $30,824 a year, less than the $50,803 median household income for Michigan as a whole and far less than the $55,322 national median. Lake County is a small, rural county near the coast of Lake Michigan. While the county’s population can increase to between 30,000 and 40,000 during the summer, when part-time residents and tourists visit the area, Lake County’s permanent population is 11,415. Such seasonal fluctuations in consumer demand may not be able to stimulate the area’s economy year round. Currently, some 6.9% of the Lake County workforce is unemployed, far more than the 4.0% state and 4.1% national unemployment rate. An estimated 27.2% of Lake County lives in poverty, the second largest share in Michigan.

Source: Greg Gjerdingen / Flickr

23. Wadena County, Minnesota
> County median household income: $42,689
> State median household income: $63,217
> Poverty rate: 15.5%
> Nov. unemployment: 4.6%

The typical household in Wadena County earns $42,689 a year, about $20,000 below the median household income across Minnesota. The county’s lower incomes are likely partially the product of a sluggish economy. As of November 2017, 4.6% of Wadena County’s labor force were out of a job compared to a 2.6% statewide unemployment rate.

Across broad populations, incomes levels track very closely with educational attainment. Generally speaking, the better educated a population is, the higher are its earnings. In Wadena County, only 13.0% of adults have earned a bachelor’s degree, less than half the comparable share across the state of 34.2%.

Source: NatalieMaynor / Flickr

24. Holmes County, Mississippi
> County median household income: $20,800
> State median household income: $40,528
> Poverty rate: 45.0%
> Nov. unemployment: 8.1%

Once a leading producer of cotton, Holmes County experienced substantial economic and population decline throughout the second half of the 20th century and has yet to fully recover from the loss of its primary industry. Today, Holmes County is home to 18,547 residents, less than half of the county’s peak population of 39,710 in 1920. The typical Holmes County household earns just $20,800 a year, nearly half of the median household income for Mississippi as a whole of $40,528 and the third least of any U.S. county with at least 10,000 residents. Some 45.0% of Holmes County residents live in poverty — the third largest share of any county and nearly three times the 15% national poverty rate.

Source: Adam Moss / Flickr

25. Mississippi County, Missouri
> County median household income: $29,214
> State median household income: $49,593
> Poverty rate: 30.5%
> Nov. unemployment: 3.8%

Sharing a name with the river that defines its eastern border, Mississippi is the only county in Missouri where the typical household earns less than $30,000 a year. Low incomes in the area are underscored by the share of residents facing serious financial hardship. Some 30.5% of Mississippi County residents live in poverty, nearly double the poverty rate across the state of 15.3%.

Property values in a region often reflect what area residents can afford, and Mississippi County is no exception. The county’s median home value of $71,600 is about half the value of the typical Missouri home.