Special Report

Worst County to Live in Every State

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Colorado: Otero County
> 5-yr. population change: -2.5% (state: +7.8%)
> Poverty rate: 22.9% (state: 11.5%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 17.7% (state: 39.4%)
> Life expectancy: 76.4 years (state: 80.2 years)

Colorado’s population is one of the fastest growing in the country. In the last five years, the number of people living in the state climbed by 7.8%. Not all parts of the state are growing, however, as Otero County, the worst county to live in the state, reported a 2.5% population decline over the same period.

With a countywide poverty rate of 22.9% compared to a state poverty rate of 11.5%, residents of Otero County are about twice as likely to live in poverty than the typical Colorado resident. Lower-income Americans can afford fewer healthy options related to medical care, diet, and lifestyle, and health outcomes are lagging in Otero County. Life expectancy at birth in the county is 76 years, about four years shy of life expectancy statewide.

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Connecticut: Windham County
> 5-yr. population change: -1.2% (state: +0.6%)
> Poverty rate: 11.1% (state: 10.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 24.4% (state: 38.4%)
> Life expectancy: 79.0 years (state: 80.6 years)

Windham, a county that makes up Connecticut’s northeastern corner, is the only county in the state where fewer than one in every four adults have a bachelor’s degree. Higher educational attainment typically corresponds with higher-paying employment opportunities, and Windham is also the poorest county in Connecticut. The typical county household annual income $62,553. While this is about $5,000 more than the national median, it is well below the statewide median annual household income of $73,781.

Like many counties on this list, Windham is losing residents. In the last five years, the number of people living in the county fell by 1.2%.

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Delaware: Kent County
> 5-yr. population change: +6.4% (state: +4.8%)
> Poverty rate: 13.0% (state: 12.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 23.5% (state: 31.0%)
> Life expectancy: 77.5 years (state: 78.7 years)

Kent County is located in the middle of Delaware. The county’s seat is the state capital of Dover. The worst county to live in the state, Kent is the only Delaware county in which fewer than one in every four adults have a bachelor’s degree.

Health outcomes in the area are also trailing the state as a whole. Life expectancy in Kent County is 77.5 years, the lowest of any Delaware county and about a year less than the life expectancy statewide. Partially as a result, Kent also ranks as the least healthy county in the state.

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Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

Florida: Union County
> 5-yr. population change: -0.6% (state: +7.4%)
> Poverty rate: 21.4% (state: 15.5%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 8.3% (state: 28.5%)
> Life expectancy: 67.6 years (state: 79.5 years)

Union County is located in northern Florida, and is not only the worst county to live in Florida but one of the worst in the country. The average life expectancy in the county fell by over half a year between 2010 and 2014 and is now just 67.6 years, more than 11 years below the average life expectancy nationwide.

Unlike most counties on this list, Union County has a relatively low unemployment rate. Just 2.8% of the county’s labor force is unemployed, below the 3.6% national unemployment rate. Many of the jobs in the county, however, are stressful and dangerous. The local economy relies heavily on the Union Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison, and the profession of corrections officer ranks among the worst jobs in America.

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Source: Bubba73 (Jud McCranie) / Wikimedia Commons

Georgia: Ben Hill County
> 5-yr. population change: -1.9% (state: +5.0%)
> Poverty rate: 30.4% (state: 16.9%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 10.2% (state: 29.9%)
> Life expectancy: 73.6 years (state: 77.4 years)

Ben Hill County is located in the southern central part of Georgia, far from Atlanta, Savannah, and the state’s other most populous cities. Only 10.2% of adults in the county have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 29.9% of adults in the state. Adults without a college education are more likely to struggle to make ends meet, and in Ben Hill County, over 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, nearly double the state’s 16.9% poverty rate.

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