21. Massachusetts: Hampden County
> County median household income: $52,205
> State median household income: $74,167
> Poverty rate: 17.2%
> Unemployment rate: 4.0%
With a median annual household income of $74,167 — $16,500 more than the typical American household — Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states in the country. Even in Hampden County, the poorest county in the state, the typical household earns $52,205 a year, more than the median income in 16 states.
Hampden is located in southern Massachusetts along the Connecticut state border and is seated by the city of Springfield. The lower median income in the county is likely due in part to the relatively weak job market. Unemployment in Hampden County stands at 4.0%, higher than the 2.9% statewide unemployment rate.
22. Michigan: Lake County
> County median household income: $32,309
> State median household income: $52,668
> Poverty rate: 25.0%
> Unemployment rate: 4.8%
Lake County, located in east-central Michigan, is the poorest county in the state. The typical household in Lake County earns $32,309 a year, about $20,000 less than the typical household in the state. Lake is one of the only counties in Michigan where one in every four residents lives below the poverty line.
Low-income areas often have shorter average life expectancies than more affluent areas. In Lake County, the average life expectancy at birth fell from 77.8 years in 2010 to 76.8 years in 2014. Nationwide, life expectancy climbed from 78.5 years to 79.1 over the same period.
23. Minnesota: Mahnomen County
> County median household income: $42,439
> State median household income: $65,699
> Poverty rate: 22.7%
> Unemployment rate: 3.2%
Mahnomen has the lowest median income of any county in Minnesota and is the only county in the state where more than one in every five residents live below the poverty line. Americans without a college degree are not qualified for as many high-paying jobs as those with a college education. In Mahnomen, just 12.1% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the smallest share of any county in the state.
Mahnomen County is one of many counties on this list that contain Native American reservations. The White Earth Indian Reservation, home to the Chippewa tribe, is located in the county, and over 40% of the county’s population identifies as American Indian.
24. Mississippi: Holmes County
> County median household income: $20,330
> State median household income: $42,009
> Poverty rate: 46.5%
> Unemployment rate: 7.7%
Holmes County is the poorest county in Mississippi. The typical state household earns $42,009 a year, about $15,600 less than the typical American household. In Holmes County, the typical household earns just $20,330, about $22,000 less than the typical MIssissippi household. Like other counties on this list, Holmes has a weak job market and a shrinking population. The county’s unemployment rate stands at 7.7%, more than double the 3.8% national unemployment rate. Additionally, in the last five years, the county’s population shrank by 4.9%, even as Mississippi’s population grew by 0.6%.
Serious financial hardship is widespread in Holmes County. Over 46% of county residents live below the poverty line, more than double the state’s 21.5% poverty rate and more than triple the 14.6% national poverty rate.
25. Missouri: Shannon County
> County median household income: $31,202
> State median household income: $51,542
> Poverty rate: 30.5%
> Unemployment rate: 3.9%
The typical household in Shannon County, Missouri, earns just $31,202 a year, about $20,000 less than the median household income in the state. Additionally, 30.5% of county residents live below the poverty line, more than double the 14.6% state poverty rate.
Shannon is a relatively rural county in southern Missouri. The low incomes are attributable in part to the high concentration of jobs in low-paying industries. More than one in every 10 workers in the county are in farming, hunting, fishing, forestry, and mining occupations. Nationwide, only about 2% of workers are employed in those jobs.
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