Special Report

The Worst Counties to Live In

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

25. Floyd County, Kentucky
> 5-yr. pop. change: -5.1%
> Poverty rate: 30.7%
> Bachelor’s degree attainment: 12.6%
> Life expectancy: 72.0 years

Floyd, a county in eastern Kentucky, is the geographic center of the Appalachian region. The county epitomizes many of the social and economic problems so common throughout the region. More than 30% of county residents live below the poverty line, and a similar share rely on SNAP benefits, or food stamps, to afford basic necessities. Like many counties on this list, Floyd is losing residents rapidly. In the last five years, the county population fell by 5.1%, even as the U.S. population grew by 3.8%.

Floyd County is one of 10 counties in Kentucky to rank among the 25 worst counties to live in in the United States.

Source: Oralleff / Getty Images

24. Apache County, Arizona
> 5-yr. pop. change: 0.0%
> Poverty rate: 35.9%
> Bachelor’s degree attainment: 11.5%
> Life expectancy: 74.3 years

Apache County, Arizona, is located in the northeastern corner of the state, sharing a border with Utah and New Mexico. The Navajo Nation Reservation comprises much of Apache County and Native American reservations often struggle with social and economic challenges.

In the county, more than one in every three residents live below the poverty line. Financial hardship is partially attributable to a lack of job opportunities. As of the end of 2018, 11.1% of the county’s labor force was out of work, compared to the 3.9% national unemployment rate.

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

23. Jackson County, Kentucky
> 5-yr. pop. change: -0.8%
> Poverty rate: 33.0%
> Bachelor’s degree attainment: 10.5%
> Life expectancy: 73.3 years

Jackson County is located in central Kentucky and includes portions of the Daniel Boone national forest. Higher education can open doors to higher paying jobs, and areas with fewer college-educated adults often have lower income levels. In Jackson County, Kentucky, just 10.5% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30.9% of adults nationwide. Further, at least half of all households in the area earn $33,000 or less per year, while most American households earn more than $57,000 a year.

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22. Yazoo County, Mississippi
> 5-yr. pop. change: -2.6%
> Poverty rate: 36.5%
> Bachelor’s degree attainment: 14.3%
> Life expectancy: 73.5 years

Yazoo County is a located in the Delta region of central Mississippi. One of the poorest counties in the United States, 36.5% of the population lives below the poverty line, more than double the 14.6% national poverty rate.

Driven by suicide and drug overdoses, life expectancy has fallen in the United States in each of the last three years. The last time life expectancy fell over a three year period was a century ago during the influenza pandemic. In Yazoo County, life expectancy fell from 73.7 years to 73.5 years between 2010 and 2014.

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21. McKinley County, New Mexico
> 5-yr. pop. change: 1.3%
> Poverty rate: 37.5%
> Bachelor’s degree attainment: 10.8%
> Life expectancy: 74.9 years

McKinley County is located in western New Mexico along the Arizona border, adjacent to Apache County — another county on this list. Like Apache County, McKinley County is home to a large Native American Reservation. Due to a number of historical and political factors, populations living on reservations are more likely to perform relatively poorly in measures of social and economic well-being. In McKinley County, 37.5% of the population lives in poverty, one of the highest poverty rates of any U.S. county. Additionally, at 74.9 years, life expectancy in McKinley County is about four years below U.S. life expectancy.