Special Report

Worst County to Live in Every State

Source: Roy Luck / Flickr

Montana: Roosevelt County
> 5-yr. population change: +7.1% (state: +3.9%)
> Poverty rate: 29.1% (state: 14.4%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 15.5% (state: 30.7%)
> Life expectancy: 71.2 years (state: 78.9 years)

Native American reservations often struggle with social and economic challenges, and much of Roosevelt County, Montana, lies within the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The county’s poverty rate of 29.1% is more than double the state poverty rate of 14.4%, and life expectancy in the county is just 71 years — about eight years less than the life expectancy statewide. Joblessness is also more common in Roosevelt County than it is across the state as a whole. The county’s unemployment rate of 4.6% is a full percentage point higher than Montana’s unemployment rate.

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Source: Ammodramus / Wikimedia Commons

Nebraska: Dakota County
> 5-yr. population change: -1.6% (state: +3.6%)
> Poverty rate: 16.8% (state: 12.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 12.6% (state: 30.6%)
> Life expectancy: 78.4 years (state: 79.6 years)

Dakota County is located in eastern Nebraska, directly across the Missouri River from Sioux City, Iowa. An estimated 16.8% of people in Dakota County live below the poverty line, a higher poverty rate than the state rate of 12.0%. Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, and only 12.6% of adults in Dakota County have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the smallest share of any county in the state. As is the case with many counties on this list, Dakota County is shrinking. As of 2017, about 20,500 people lived in the county, 1.6% fewer than five years prior.

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Source: DougLemke / Getty Images

Nevada: Nye County
> 5-yr. population change: -1.2% (state: +6.8%)
> Poverty rate: 17.3% (state: 14.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 11.5% (state: 23.7%)
> Life expectancy: 74.1 years (state: 78.1 years)

Nye County, Nevada, is located in the southern part of the state, west of Las Vegas. The county is easily the worst to live in the state, based on 24/7 Wall St.’s index. Just 11.5% of county adults have a bachelor’s degree, less than half the state’s relatively low 23.7% share, and the county’s 4.8% April unemployment rate is one of the higher rates in the country. People born today in Nye County have a life expectancy of 74.1 years, which is about five years below the national average life expectancy.

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Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

New Hampshire: Coos County
> 5-yr. population change: -2.3% (state: +1.1%)
> Poverty rate: 13.3% (state: 8.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 18.3% (state: 36.0%)
> Life expectancy: 78.2 years (state: 80.2 years)

Residents of Coos County, the northernmost county in New Hampshire, are more likely to be unemployed and live below the poverty line than those living in any other county in the state. As of April 2019, 3.7% of the county’s labor force was unemployed, well above the 2.4% state unemployment rate. The relative lack of jobs in the county likely contributes to the highest-in-the-state poverty rate of 13.3%. New Hampshire’s poverty rate of 8.1% is the lowest of any U.S. state.

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New Jersey: Cumberland County
> 5-yr. population change: -1.2% (state: +1.9%)
> Poverty rate: 18.8% (state: 10.7%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 14.4% (state: 38.1%)
> Life expectancy: 76.6 years (state: 80.0 years)

New Jersey’s Cumberland County is located in the southern part of the state, making up much of the state’s coastline adjacent to the Delaware Bay. Cumberland has an adult bachelor’s degree attainment rate of just 14.4%, compared to a state share of 38.1%. The county also has the highest poverty rate in the state among counties with at least 10,000 people, at 18.8% of residents, compared to a state poverty rate of 10.7%.

People living in poverty are much more likely to face issues leading to health problems and poorer populations tend to have shorter life expectancy. Like many of the places on this list, Cumberland ranks as the least healthy county in the state.

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