The Poorest County in Every State
46. Virginia: Buchanan County
> County median household income: $30,828
> State median household income: $68,766
> Poverty rate: 26.5%
> Unemployment rate: 5.1%
The typical Virginia household earns $68,766 a year, about $11,000 more than the typical American household. Though Virginia is one of the wealthiest states in the country, most households in Buchanan County earn less than $31,000 a year. Additionally, more than one in every four county residents live below the poverty line, more than double the 11.2% state poverty rate.
Buchanan County is located in western Virginia along the West Virginia and Kentucky state borders. Many of the wealthier counties in the state are located in the northwest, within commuting distance of Washington D.C.
47. Washington: Pacific County
> County median household income: $39,895
> State median household income: $66,174
> Poverty rate: 18.6%
> Unemployment rate: 6.1%
Pacific County is the only county in Washington state where a majority households earn less than $40,000 a year. Higher-paying jobs typically require at least a college education, and in Pacific County, just 17% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, less than half the 34.5% share of adults statewide who do.
A far larger than typical share of workers in the county work in occupations in relatively low-paying industries. For example, 8.3% are employed in farming, hunting, fishing, forestry, and mining occupations. Nationwide, only about 2% of workers are employed in those jobs.
48. West Virginia: McDowell County
> County median household income: $25,595
> State median household income: $44,061
> Poverty rate: 34.9%
> Unemployment rate: 8.6%
McDowell County’s median household income of $25,595 a year is the lowest in West Virginia and among the lowest of any U.S. county. More than a third of county residents — 34.9% — live in poverty, one of the higher poverty rates in the nation. These economic struggles are at least partially attributable to the county’s unemployment rate. As of October, 8.6% of McDowell County’s labor force was out of work, well above West Virginia’s 4.6% unemployment rate.
McDowell County has one of the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rates in the country, at just 4.9%. West Virginia’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate is the lowest of any state, at 19.9%, but it is still more than four times higher than that of McDowell County.
49. Wisconsin: Menominee County
> County median household income: $38,080
> State median household income: $56,759
> Poverty rate: 35.8%
> Unemployment rate: 4.4%
Indian reservations are home to some of the poorest populations in the United States. Menominee County, Wisconsin, includes the Menominee Reservation and ranks as the poorest county in the state. Most county households earn less than $38,100 a year, and more than one in every three residents live below the poverty line.
Better-educated areas tend to report higher incomes, and in Menominee County, just 15.9% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, well below the 29.0% share of adults in Wisconsin with a four-year college degree.
50. Wyoming: Albany County
> County median household income: $45,816
> State median household income: $60,938
> Poverty rate: 23.0%
> Unemployment rate: 2.9%
At $45,816, Albany County’s median annual household income is more than $15,000 lower than that of Wyoming. Albany County is one of just two counties to rank as poorest in their respective states despite having a bachelor’s degree attainment rate higher than that of its state. Nearly half of county adults hold at least a bachelor’s degree, nearly double Wyoming’s 26.7% bachelor’s degree attainment rate.
A high bachelor’s degree attainment rate is due in part to the presence of a major research university. The University of Wyoming is located in Albany’s county seat, Laramie. Also because of the the university, 42.3% of the county’s labor force work in education, nearly double the 23.1% share of American workers.