The Poorest County in Every State
36. Oklahoma: Choctaw County
> County median household income: $30,298
> State median household income: $49,767
> Poverty rate: 31.0%
> Unemployment rate: 4.2%
Choctaw County is located in southeastern Oklahoma along the Red River, which makes up the state border with Texas. In Choctaw County, half of all households earn less than $30,298, and about 15% of households earn less than $10,000. Choctaw also has a 31% poverty rate, the highest of any county in the state.
Low incomes are partially attributable to the kinds of jobs available in the county. For example, 6.9% of workers in Choctaw County work in farming, hunting, fishing, forestry, and mining occupations. Nationwide, only about 2% of workers are employed in those jobs. Meanwhile, just 5.4% of workers in the county are employed in professional, scientific, and management jobs — less than half the industry’s 11.3% employment concentration nationwide.
37. Oregon: Malheur County
> County median household income: $37,112
> State median household income: $56,119
> Poverty rate: 25.2%
> Unemployment rate: 4.1%
Malheur County residents are more likely to face financial hardship than those in any other part of Oregon. More than 10% of county households live on less than $10,000 per year, the only part of Oregon where that is the case. The county also has far and away the highest poverty rate in Oregon at 25.2%.
There is a strong correlation between an area’s educational attainment and income. Malheur County adults have a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 13.2%, less than half of the state’s college attainment rate of 32.3%. This may at least partially explain why the typical county household earns about $19,000 less than the typical household statewide.
38. Pennsylvania: Forest County
> County median household income: $37,106
> State median household income: $56,951
> Poverty rate: 14.1%
> Unemployment rate: 5.0%
Forest County is appropriately named, as it is spans much of the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern area of Pennsylvania. The county’s median annual household income, which is nearly $20,000 lower than that of the state, may be hampered by the population’s relatively low level of educational attainment. Just 7.0% of adults in Forest County hold at least a bachelor’s degree, the lowest level in Pennsylvania and one of thelowest levels of any county in the U.S. For context, the bachelor’s degree attainment rate statewide is over 30%.
39. Rhode Island: Providence County
> County median household income: $52,530
> State median household income: $61,043
> Poverty rate: 16.7%
> Unemployment rate: 3.4%
Providence has by far the largest population of Rhode Island’s five counties. With more than 633,000 residents, it makes up more than 60% of the state’s population. Though Providence County has the lowest median annual household income in the state, it is still only about $5,000 lower than the U.S. median. Yet, the county’s median household income is more than $16,500 lower than in any other county in Rhode Island.
Statewide, 13.4% of Rhode Island residents live in poverty. In the four counties outside of Providence County, the poverty rate is less than 10%. In Providence County, the poverty rate is 16.7%.
40. South Carolina: Allendale County
> County median household income: $23,331
> State median household income: $48,781
> Poverty rate: 30.4%
> Unemployment rate: 5.6%
Allendale County, which borders Georgia, has the lowest median household income of any South Carolina county. The typical household earns $23,331 a year, less than half of South Carolina’s median annual household income of $48,781. More than 30% of county residents live in poverty, and more than one out of every five households earns less than $10,000 annually, one of the highest such shares in the nation.
Poverty can have a serious detrimental effect on health. Allendale County residents have an average life expectancy at birth of just under 73 years, more than 6 years less than the average life expectancy nationwide.