In 2016, the median household income rose from $53,889 to $55,322. While incomes and quality of life have improved for Americans overall in the past year, incomes of the wealthiest citizens rose far faster than that of poor Americans. In many of the poorest parts of the country, the quality of life has only declined over the past several decades.
Many counties have yet to recover from decades of economic and population decline, high unemployment, and public health issues due to the loss of employment opportunities in the U.S. mining and manufacturing industries and other economic trends that have hurt the country’s most vulnerable areas.
To identify the worst counties to live in, 24/7 Wall St. constructed an index composed of three socioeconomic measures — poverty rate, the percentage of adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree, and life expectancy at birth — and ranked counties based on the index. The selection of these three measures was inspired by the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Most of the lowest ranked counties are in the rural South, concentrated within the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield, Mississippi Delta, and Alabama Black Belt regions.