Special Report

Worst County to Live in Every State

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Hawaii: Hawaii County
> 5-yr. population change: +5.9% (state: +4.3%)
> Poverty rate: 17.4% (state: 10.3%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 28.6% (state: 32.0%)
> Life expectancy: 80.2 years (state: 81.2 years)

Hawaii County is coterminous with the island of Hawaii. Joblessness is more common in Hawaii County than anywhere else in the state. Unemployment stands at 3.8% countywide, a full percentage-point higher than the state unemployment rate.

The poverty rate in Hawaii County of 17.4% is well above the 10.3% state poverty rate, and like many counties on this list, Hawaii County is also the poorest in the state. Partially as a result, more area residents depend on government assistance. About one in every five Hawaii County residents receive SNAP benefits, well above the recipiency rate in every other county in the state.

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Idaho: Owyhee County
> 5-yr. population change: -0.8% (state: +5.7%)
> Poverty rate: 23.3% (state: 14.5%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 9.7% (state: 26.8%)
> Life expectancy: 78.7 years (state: 79.5 years)

Owyhee County makes up the southwestern corner of Idaho. The county is one of only two in the state where fewer than one in every 10 adults have a bachelor’s degree. Across the state as a whole, more than one in every four adults have a bachelor’s degree. Incomes tend to climb with educational attainment, and in Owyhee County, most households earn about $36,000 or less a year compared to the state median annual household income of $50,985.

Like many counties on this list, Owyhee is losing residents. In the last five years, the number of people living in Owyhee fell by 0.8% even as Idaho’s population as a whole grew by 5.7%.

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Source: TheCatalyst31 / Wikimedia Commons

Illinois: Saline County
> 5-yr. population change: -2.2% (state: +0.2%)
> Poverty rate: 20.6% (state: 13.5%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 16.4% (state: 33.4%)
> Life expectancy: 74.9 years (state: 79.0 years)

Saline County, located in southern Illinois, is one of the poorest counties in the state. One in every four residents rely on SNAP benefits, and one in every five live below the poverty line. The financial hardship is partially attributable to the high jobless rate in the county. Unemployment in the county stands at 5.5%, well above the 4.4% state and 3.6% national unemployment rates.

The lack of economic opportunities may also be pushing people out of the county. In the last five years, the number of people living in Saline County fell by 2.2%.

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Indiana: Switzerland County
> 5-yr. population change: +1.0% (state: +2.0%)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (state: 14.6%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 8.7% (state: 25.3%)
> Life expectancy: 76.5 years (state: 77.7 years)

Switzerland County is located in eastern Indiana along the Ohio River, which forms the state’s border with Kentucky. Switzerland is one of only two counties in Indiana where fewer than one in every 10 adults have a four-year college education. Incomes tend to rise with higher educational attainment, and Switzerland County’s 19.7% poverty rate is well above the statewide 14.6% poverty rate.

Higher-income, better-educated Americans tend to have longer life expectancies. In Switzerland County, the average life expectancy is 76.5 years, about a year below life expectancy across the state as a whole.

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Source: Jon Roanhaus / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa: Lee County
> 5-yr. population change: -2.7% (state: +2.3%)
> Poverty rate: 16.3% (state: 12.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 15.7% (state: 27.7%)
> Life expectancy: 77.5 years (state: 79.7 years)

Lee County is located in southeastern Iowa along the Mississippi River. Though joblessness is less of a problem in Lee County than it is nationwide, workers in Lee County are more likely to be out of a job than they are across the state. Lee County’s 3.1% unemployment rate is well above 2.4% statewide rate. Incomes are also lower in Lee County than they are statewide. The typical area household earns $48,266 a year, compared to the statewide median annual household income of $56,570.

College-educated Americans are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to earn higher salaries than those without a bachelor’s degree. In Lee County, 15.7% of adults have a four-year college degree, compared to 27.7% of adults across Iowa as a whole.

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