The Poorest County in Every State
31. New Mexico: Quay County
> County median household income: $26,663
> State median household income: $46,718
> Poverty rate: 21.6%
> Unemployment rate: 4.7%
Quay County is located in eastern New Mexico along the Texas state border. The median annual household income in Quay County is $26,663, $20,000 below the statewide median. The county’s low median income is largely attributable to a high concentration of jobs in low-paying industries. For example, 6.6% of workers in the county are employed in farming, hunting, fishing, forestry, and mining occupations. Nationwide, only about 2% of workers are employed in those jobs. Meanwhile, less that 5% of workers in the county are employed in professional, scientific, and management jobs — less than half the industry’s 11.3% employment concentration nationwide.
Like many poor counties on this list, Quay County is shrinking rapidly. In the last five years, the county’s population shrank by 5.7%, even as the state’s population grew 1.4%.
32. New York: Bronx County
> County median household income: $36,593
> State median household income: $62,765
> Poverty rate: 29.7%
> Unemployment rate: 5.3%
Bronx County, coterminous with the Bronx borough of New York City, is the only county in New York state where most households earn less than $40,000 a year. The typical household in the county earns $36,593 a year, about $8,000 less than the median income in Chautauqua County, the second poorest county in the state. About 30% of Bronx County residents live below the poverty line, the largest share of any of New York’s 62 counties.
In most counties on this list, real estate prices are far lower than typical. Bronx County is a notable exception. New York City has some of the most highly coveted and expensive real estate in the country, and as one of the city’s five boroughs, the Bronx’s median home value is $371,800, well above the median value of $293,000 statewide and $193,500 nationwide.
33. North Carolina: Bertie County
> County median household income: $31,287
> State median household income: $50,320
> Poverty rate: 22.0%
> Unemployment rate: 4.2%
Bertie County is located in northeastern North Carolina along the Chowan River. Most households in the county earn less than $32,000 a year, and more than one in every nine households earn less than $10,000 a year. A high jobless rate is partially to blame. The unemployment rate in the county stands at 4.2%, well above the state’s 3.4% unemployment rate.
Like many other counties on this list, Bertie County’s population is shrinking rapidly. In the last five years, the number of people living there declined by 5.3%. Over the same period, North Carolina’s population climbed by 5.3%.
34. North Dakota: Rolette County
> County median household income: $36,170
> State median household income: $61,285
> Poverty rate: 32.4%
> Unemployment rate: 6.2%
Rolette County is located in north-central North Dakota along the Canadian border. The poorest county in the state, 18.1% of households in Rolette earn less than $10,000 a year, the largest share in any of South Dakota’s 53 counties. Additionally, 32.4% of county residents live below the poverty line, nearly triple the state’s 11.0% poverty rate.
Low incomes and widespread financial hardship are partially attributable to a weak job market. In Rolette County, 6.2% of workers are unemployed, the highest unemployment rate of any county in the state and well below the 3.8% national unemployment rate. Poorer areas typically have lower than average life expectancy, and in Rolette, life expectancy at birth is 73 years, 6 years below the national average.
35. Ohio: Adams County
> County median household income: $36,320
> State median household income: $52,407
> Poverty rate: 23.8%
> Unemployment rate: 6.5%
Adams County is located in southern Ohio, across the Ohio River from Kentucky. The typical household in Adams County earns just $36,320 a year, the lowest median income of any county in the state and about $16,000 less than the median income across the state as a whole.
An improved job market would likely raise incomes in Adams as 6.5% of workers in the county are unemployed, the highest unemployment rate of any Ohio county. Poor economic conditions may be driving people out of the county. In the last five years, the county’s population shrank by 2.1%, even as Ohio’s population grew by 0.7%.