Special Report

The Worst Counties To Live In

40. Dillon County, South Carolina
> Poverty rate: 32.6%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 11.1%
> Life expectancy at birth: 72.7 years
> Total population: 30,689
> Largest place in county: Dillon

Dillon County, located in northeastern South Carolina, is the only county in the state to rank among the worst places to live in the United States. One of the least healthy counties in the country, life expectancy at birth in Dillon County is just 72.7 years, about six years below the national average.

The low life expectancy is due in part to the prevalence of certain unhealthy behaviors. For example, adults in Dillon County are more likely to smoke and less likely to exercise than the typical American adult. Widespread poverty may also be a factor. Nearly 33% of the local population live below the poverty line, well more than double the 13.4% national poverty rate.

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39. Floyd County, Kentucky
> Poverty rate: 30.7%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 11.3%
> Life expectancy at birth: 71.0 years
> Total population: 36,456
> Largest place in county: Prestonsburg

Floyd County, located in eastern Kentucky, is one of the worst places to live in the United States. Coal extraction has long been an economic pillar in the county, and as U.S. energy production has shifted away from coal, places in eastern Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia have suffered economically. In Floyd County, 30.7% of the population live below the poverty line, and most households earn less than $33,000 annually.

As coal mining was a way many could earn a living without a college education, relatively few in Floyd County have the education necessary for many high paying jobs more common today. Just 11.3% of the local 25 and older population have a bachelor’s degree, about one-third the comparable share of adults nationwide.

Source: 25or6to4 / Wikimedia Commons

38. Brooks County, Texas
> Poverty rate: 41.4%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 15.7%
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.1 years
> Total population: 7,141
> Largest place in county: Falfurrias

Brooks County, located in southern Texas, is the only county in the state to rank among the worst places to live in the United States. The county’s poverty rate of 41.4% is more than three times higher than the national poverty rate and among the 10 highest of all U.S. counties and county equivalents. Widespread poverty is due in part to a lack of economic opportunity. The unemployment rate in the county stands at 11.9%.

In recent years, Brooks County has been a popular crossing point for illegal migrants from Central America. Temperatures in the county regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, making the journey especially dangerous for migrants, who often resort to breaking and entering and burglary out of necessity. The area is also used by drug traffickers from south of the border.

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37. Claiborne County, Mississippi
> Poverty rate: 41.0%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 24.0%
> Life expectancy at birth: 72.1 years
> Total population: 9,089
> Largest place in county: Port Gibson

Claiborne County, located in southwestern Mississippi, is one of several counties in the state to rank among the worst places to live nationwide. In Claiborne, quality of life is undermined by widespread poverty. The local poverty rate stands at 41%, more than triple the national poverty rate and among the 10 highest of all counties and county equivalents in the United States.

The local poverty rate would likely decline if the job market improved. As of January 2021, 13.5% of the area’s labor force were unemployed. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the local 2019 unemployment rate stood at 10.7%, well above the comparable 3.7% national rate.

Source: Thomas R Machnitzki (thomas@machnitzki.com) / Wikimedia Commons

36. Coahoma County, Mississippi
> Poverty rate: 34.8%
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 16.5%
> Life expectancy at birth: 71.2 years
> Total population: 23,255
> Largest place in county: Clarksdale

Coahoma County, located in Mississippi’s Delta region, is one of the worst places to live in the country largely because of widespread poverty. Over a third of the area’s 23,300 residents live below the poverty line, and nearly 18% of households earn less than $10,000 a year, about three times the 6% share of all U.S. households living on so little.

Limited job availability partially explains the widespread poverty in Coahoma County. As of January 2021, 11.0% of the area’s labor force were unemployed. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the local 2019 unemployment rate stood at 7.7%, well above the comparable 3.7% national rate.