Special Report

Worst County to Live in Every State

Source: kenlund / Flickr

New Mexico: McKinley County
> 5-yr. population change: +1.3% (state: +1.4%)
> Poverty rate: 37.5% (state: 20.6%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 10.8% (state: 26.9%)
> Life expectancy: 74.9 years (state: 78.4 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 spans over 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.

Unemployment in McKinley County stands at 6.0%, well above the 3.6% national unemployment rate. Economic growth in the county is likely hindered, as due to several social and regulatory factors, New Mexico ranks as one of the worst states for business.

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Source: ALT55-VictorM / Wikimedia Commons

New York: Bronx County
> 5-yr. population change: +5.0% (state: +2.1%)
> Poverty rate: 29.7% (state: 15.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 19.4% (state: 35.3%)
> Life expectancy: 78.7 years (state: 80.4 years)

Bronx County is coterminous with the New York City borough of the same name. Nearly 30% of Bronx County residents live below the poverty line, roughly double the 15.1% poverty rate across New York state. Incomes tend to rise with higher educational attainment, and Bronx County is the least educated county in the state. Just 71.5% of adults in the Bronx have completed high school, compared to 86.1% of adults across the state as a whole.

Due to widespread financial hardship, a larger than typical share of Bronx residents depend on government assistance to afford basic necessities. Some 36.5% of county residents receive SNAP benefits, the largest share of any county in the state and nearly triple the 12.6% national recipiency rate.

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North Carolina: Robeson County
> 5-yr. population change: +0.2% (state: +5.3%)
> Poverty rate: 29.2% (state: 16.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 12.8% (state: 29.9%)
> Life expectancy: 73.7 years (state: 77.9 years)

Robeson County is located in southern North Carolina along the South Carolina state border. Life expectancy in the county is just shy of 74 years, about four years less than the average life expectancy at birth across the state as a whole. Health outcomes like life expectancy tend to be worse in poorer areas, and Robeson is the only county in the state where nearly 30% of residents live below the poverty line. The widespread financial hardship is partially attributable to the weak job market in the county. Unemployment in Robeson County stands at 5.0%, well above the 4.0% state unemployment rate.

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Source: Andrew Filer / Flickr

North Dakota: Rolette County
> 5-yr. population change: +4.6% (state: +10.2%)
> Poverty rate: 32.4% (state: 11.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 20.7% (state: 28.9%)
> Life expectancy: 73.0 years (state: 80.0 years)

Rolette County is located north central North Dakota along the Canadian border. The county’s poverty rate of 32.4% is nearly triple the 11.0% poverty rate across the state as a whole. Health outcomes tend to be worse in poorer populations, and life expectancy at birth in Rolette County is just 73 years, seven years below life expectancy statewide.

The county’s median household income of $36,170 is the lowest in the state. Low incomes are partially attributable to a weak job market. The county’s unemployment rate of 7.7% is the highest of any county in the state and more than triple the 2.3% state unemployment rate.

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Source: dok1 / Flickr

Ohio: Adams County
> 5-yr. population change: -2.1% (state: +0.7%)
> Poverty rate: 23.8% (state: 14.9%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 12.1% (state: 27.2%)
> Life expectancy: 75.2 years (state: 77.9 years)

Adams County is the poorest county in the state, with a median annual household income of just $36,320, roughly $16,000 less than the state median of $52,407. The county’s poverty rate of 23.8% is well above the state and national figures of 14.9% and 14.6%, respectively, and more than one in four residents receive SNAP benefit assistance. The county, which is on the state’s border with Kentucky, had an unemployment rate of 5.3% as of April, one of the highest rates among large U.S. counties.

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