America's Richest and Poorest States
50. West Virginia
> Median household income: $43,469
> Population: 1,815,857 (13th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 5.2% (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.1% (4th highest)
West Virginia has the lowest median annual household income of any state. An estimated 20.2% of West Virginia adults hold at least a bachelor’s degree — the lowest rate of any state by more than a full percentage point. Nationwide, some 32.0% of adults are college graduates. Those with college degrees are more likely to work in a higher-paying job in a highly specialized career field than those without. West Virginia also ranks among the worst in a number of other key socioeconomic indicators, including unemployment rate, poverty rate, and the percentage of families who earn less than $10,000. The U.S. economy continues to improve, but West Virginia has not benefitted as much as the majority of states from this improvement. It was one of a handful of states in which the median household income did not increase between 2013 and 2017.
> Median household income: $43,529
> Population: 2,984,100 (17th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 5.1% (4th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (the highest)
Nearly one out of every five people in Mississippi live in poverty. At 19.8%, no other state has a higher poverty rate. Like many of America’s other least wealthy states, Mississippi’s unemployment rate is well above the U.S. unemployment rate. Further, employed state residents are more likely than workers in most other states to be employed in the education or manufacturing industries, which tend to be lower paying. Mississippi workers also are some of the least likely to be employed in the higher paying information and finance sectors. In 2013, Mississippi’s median household income was the lowest in the country, but it rose by more than $3,300 by 2017, putting it ahead of West Virginia’s.
> Median household income: $45,869
> Population: 3,004,279 (19th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 3.7% (18th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.4% (7th highest)
Arkansas is the only state with a median household income below $50,000 and a relatively low unemployment rate. Just 3.7% of the state’s labor force is unemployed, compared to the 4.4% national unemployment rate. As the jobless earn no income, high unemployment can significantly drive down median household incomes. Just 23.4% of Arkansas adults have a four-year college degree, one of the lowest shares in the country. Poverty and lower educational attainment are cyclically related. Those living in poverty often cannot afford a higher education. At the same time, lower education levels prevent many from exiting poverty as higher-paying jobs often require a college degree.
> Median household income: $46,145
> Population: 4,684,333 (25th highest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 5.1% (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (2nd highest)
Louisiana is tied with New Mexico for the second highest poverty rate of all states, at 19.7%. The state also has the second highest share of households that live in extreme poverty. Some 10.3% of households earn less than $10,000 annually, as compared to 6.5% of U.S. households. Louisiana has one of the highest state unemployment rates at 5.1%. The national unemployment rate is 4.4%. The state’s relatively high share of workers without an income helps explain why such a high share of residents and households live in poverty and extreme poverty.
46. New Mexico
> Median household income: $46,744
> Population: 2,088,070 (15th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 6.2% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (3rd highest)
New Mexico’s median household income of $46,744 a year is fifth lowest of all states. The state’s unemployment rate is one of the highest nationwide. A relatively large share of New Mexico households live on very little income. Some 9.7% of households in the state report annual incomes of less than $10,000 a year. New Mexico is one of just six states that did not experience a significant increase in median household income over the past five years.