Special Report

America's Richest and Poorest States

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

45. Alabama
> Median household income: $48,123
> Population: 4,874,747 (24th highest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 4.4% (22nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.9% (6th highest)

There are signs that finances are improving for Alabama residents. From 2013 to 2017, the state’s median household income increased by more than $3,000. Despite a low level of unemployment, Alabama’s median household income is still one of the lowest in the country. This may be at least partially due to the fact that many workers in the state are employed in low-paying industries. Some 14.3% of Alabama workers work in the manufacturing industry, which typically does not pay well. The state also had one of the lowest shares of workers — 1.4% — employed in the higher-paying information industry.

Source: Thinkstock

44. Kentucky
> Median household income: $48,375
> Population: 4,454,189 (25th lowest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 4.9% (9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.2% (5th highest)

Kentucky’s median household income of $48,375 a year, which is seventh lowest among states, is likely hampered by relatively low educational attainment rates in the state. Just 86.3% of Kentucky adults graduated high school, and just 24.0% have at least a bachelor’s degree — both among the lowest rates in the country. Higher levels of education can open the door to better job opportunities.

Source: Thinkstock

43. Oklahoma
> Median household income: $50,051
> Population: 3,930,864 (23rd lowest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 4.3% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.8% (8th highest)

Property values in an area can be a good indicator of the strength of a regional economy. Higher home values imply greater demand and show residents are able to afford higher prices. Home prices in Oklahoma are among the lowest of any state. The typical home in the state is valued at just $137,400, more than $80,000 below the U.S. median. Incomes have remained relatively stagnant in Oklahoma over the past year.

Source: avisJodi Wikimedia Commons / D

42. South Carolina
> Median household income: $50,570
> Population: 5,024,369 (23rd highest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 4.3% (24th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.4% (9th highest)

South Carolina’s median household income of $50,570 a year is nearly $10,000 less than the U.S. median. In addition to generally having lower incomes, South Carolina also has a relatively high share of households living in extreme poverty. Among South Carolina households, 8.1% report incomes of less than $10,000, compared to 6.5% of U.S. households.

Source: f11photo / Thinkstock

41. Tennessee
> Median household income: $51,340
> Population: 6,715,984 (16th highest)
> 2017 unemployment rate: 3.7% (17th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.0% (10th highest)

Tennessee rounds out the 10 states with the lowest median household incomes. Tennessee had the 8th lowest median household income in 2016. But state income increased significantly over the next year, and as a result South Carolina’s ranking improved.

A relatively high share of workers in the state is employed in lower-paying, blue collar industries. The state has among the highest shares of people working in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and utilities. This may also explain why Tennessee’s median household income is one of the lowest, despite also having one of the lower unemployment rates. Some 3.7% of the state’s labor force is out of work — a full percentage point improvement from the previous year.

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