Special Report

Worst County to Live in Every State

Source: Kent Kanouse / Flickr

6. Otero County, Colorado
> 5-yr. population change: -1.9%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.9%
> Poverty rate: 23.1%
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.4 years

One of the fastest-growing states in the country, Colorado has registered an 8.3% increase in population over the last five years. Not all parts of the state are drawing newcomers, however. In Otero County, the population contracted 1.9% in the last five years.

Colorado is also one of the nation’s best-educated states, with 38.7% of the adults there having received a bachelor’s degree. This was the highest rate for any state except Massachusetts. In stark contrast, only 17.1% of the adults in Otero County have a four-year college degree. Better-educated adults typically find higher-paying jobs. With one of the lowest bachelor’s degree-attainment rates in the state, Otero County is a relatively poor area. The county’s median household income for is only $34,477 year, well below the state’s median of $62,520.

Source: JJBers / Flickr

7. Windham County, Connecticut
> 5-yr. population change: -0.8%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 4.5%
> Poverty rate: 11.2%
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years

Bordering Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Windham County comprises Connecticut’s northeast corner. Although in educational attainment, life expectancy, and poverty, it ranks as the worst among Connecticut’s eight counties, Windham County residents are in many ways better off than many Americans. For example, Windham County’s median household income is $60,689 a year, lower than the state’s median of $73,433 but well higher than the country’s median of $55,322.

Additionally, only 11.2% of Windham County residents live in poverty, higher than the state’s poverty rate of 9.8% but lower than the country’s rate of 15.1%.

Source: aimintang / iStock

8. Kent County, Delaware
> 5-yr. population change: +7.2%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 4.3%
> Poverty rate: 13.2%
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.5 years

A small state, Delaware is comprised of only three counties — none which rank especially poorly on a national scale. The median household income in Kent County is $55,184 a year, roughly in line with what the typical American household earns but considerably less than Delaware’s median of $61,757. Similarly, the county’s 13.2% poverty rate — though higher than the state’s 11.7% rate — is considerably lower than the nation’s 15.1% poverty rate.

While many of the counties on this list have been shedding residents in recent years, Kent County is an exception. In the last five years, its population has grown 7.2%, outpacing the state’s 5.0% increase and the nation’s 3.9% gain.

Source: ebyabe / Flickr

9. Union County, Florida
> 5-yr. population change: -2.1%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 3.7%
> Poverty rate: 22.4%
> Life expectancy at birth: 67.6 years

Union County is a landlocked area in Florida just north of Gainesville. Based on life expectancy, educational attainment, and the prevalence of poverty, the residents in this county fare worse than their peers across Florida. In Union County, only 7.6% of adults have received a bachelor’s degree, well below the state’s 27.9% rate. Better-educated populations are more likely to be high-earning and financially secure. In Union County, the median household income is just $37,778, well below the state’s median of $48,900.

College-educated adults are also more likely to live longer, healthier lives than those who have received only a high school diploma. The low level of educational attainment in Union County might explain some of the poor health outcomes there. For example, life expectancy in the county is just 67.6 years, more than 10 years less than the state’s average — and about the same as life expectancy in India.

Source: J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

10. Ben Hill County, Georgia
> 5-yr. population change: -1.4%
> Nov. unemployment rate: 7.0%
> Poverty rate: 35.0%
> Life expectancy at birth: 73.6 years

Most of the counties across the nation with the highest incomes and best health outcomes are in close proximity to metropolitan areas. But for many of the counties on this list, the opposite is true. Fitzgerald, the county seat of Georgia’s Ben Hill County is about 145 miles from Savannah and 170 miles from Atlanta. In Ben Hill County, only 10.6% of adults have received a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30.5% of the adults in the state. College-educated adults are less likely to face serious financial hardship. And in Ben Hill County, 35.0% of the population lives below the poverty line, roughly double the state’s rate.

The area’s widespread financial insecurity is partially attributable to joblessness. The unemployment rate in Ben Hill is 7%, much higher than the nation’s rate of 4.1%.

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