Special Report

The Poorest County in Every State

Source: Loco Steve / Flickr

26. Glacier County, Montana
> County median household income: $29,181
> State median household income: $48,380
> Poverty rate: 33.3%
> Nov. unemployment: 7.9%

Glacier County is a rural county in Montana that contains the Blackfeet Native American Reservation and parts of Glacier National Park. While the area is a major tourist attraction and the region known as Glacier Country attracted $1 billion in tourist spending in 2016, much of the county struggles economically. The unemployment rate for Glacier County is 7.9%, and 33.3% of residents live in poverty, each some of the largest shares of any U.S. county.

The typical household in Glacier County earns just $29,181 a year, far less than the $48,380 state and $55,322 national median incomes. Much of the poverty and low incomes in Glacier County are concentrated in the town of Browning, the tribal headquarters of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Source: Minda Haas Kuhlmann / Flickr

27. Red Willow County, Nebraska
> County median household income: $42,457
> State median household income: $54,384
> Poverty rate: 11.8%
> Nov. unemployment: 2.0%

The typical household in Red Willow County earns $42,457 a year, about $12,000 less than the typical Nebraskan household. Despite the lower incomes, Red Willow’s economy appears to be in better shape than the state’s as a whole — at least when it comes to jobs. Only 2.0% of the county’s workforce is out of a job, a smaller share than the 2.4% statewide and 4.1% nationwide unemployment rates.

Red Willow is a relatively small and sparsely populated county along the state border with Kansas. There are only about 15 people per square mile in Red Willow County — compared to 24 people and 87 people per square mile across the state and country, respectively.

Source: Terry Feuerborn / Flickr

28. Nye County, Nevada
> County median household income: $42,266
> State median household income: $53,094
> Poverty rate: 17.2%
> Nov. unemployment: 6.4%

The typical household in Nye County earns $42,266 a year, the least of any county in Nevada and far less than both the state and national median household incomes of $53,094 and $55,322, respectively. Some 17.2% of the Nye County population lives in poverty, also the largest share in the state.

A college degree can increase the likelihood of an individual securing a high-paying job. Additionally, a large share of college-educated adults can attract advanced business and industry to a region. Just 12.1% of adults in Nye County have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the 23.2% state college attainment rate and the 30.3% U.S. figure.

Source: cmh2315fl / Flickr

29. Coos County, New Hampshire
> County median household income: $45,154
> State median household income: $68,485
> Poverty rate: 13.3%
> Nov. unemployment: 3.2%

The typical household in Coos County, New Hampshire earns $45,154 a year, about $23,000 less than the median household income across the state. Educational attainment is one of the strongest predictors of income, and not only is Coos the poorest county in the state, but it also has the least educated population. Only 17.8% of adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree, far fewer than the 35.5% of adults in New Hampshire.

Despite the low incomes, serious financial hardship is relatively uncommon in Coos County. While the county’s poverty rate of 13.3% is the highest in state, it is lower than the nationwide poverty rate of 15.1%.

Source: Dennis / Flicker

30. Cumberland County, New Jersey
> County median household income: $49,537
> State median household income: $73,702
> Poverty rate: 18.5%
> Nov. unemployment: 7.1%

New Jersey has some of the worst income inequality of any state. While the typical household in suburban counties outside of Newark such as Somerset, Morris, and Hunterdon earns more than $100,000 a year, several counties earn far less. In Cumberland County, the poorest in the state, the typical household earns just $49,537 a year, far less than the median household income for New Jersey as a whole of $73,702.

One factor keeping incomes low in Cumberland County may be the area’s low educational attainment rate. A college degree can increase the likelihood of an individual securing a high-paying job, and a large share of college-educated adults can attract advanced business and industry to a region. In Cumberland County, just 14.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, the smallest share of any county in New Jersey and less than half the comparable state college attainment rate of 37.5%.