Special Report

The Worst County To Live In Every State

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Colorado: Otero County
> Largest place in county: La Junta
> 5-yr. population change: -2.3% (state: +7.9%)
> Poverty rate: 23.7% (state: 10.3%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 18.6% (state: 40.9%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 74.0 years (state: 80.6 years)

Otero County is located in southeastern Colorado. Due to several key socioeconomic indicators, it ranks as the worst county to live in the state. At just 74 years, life expectancy at birth in the county is nearly seven years shy of the statewide average.

The area’s lower than average life expectancy is likely closely tied to the high poverty rate. Low-income Americans are less likely to be able to afford necessary and preventative medical care and healthy lifestyle choices. In Otero County, 23.7% of the population live below the poverty line, more than double the 10.3% state poverty rate.

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Connecticut: Windham County
> Largest place in county: Willimantic
> 5-yr. population change: -1.1% (state: -0.5%)
> Poverty rate: 11.4% (state: 9.9%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 24.3% (state: 39.3%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (state: 80.9 years)

Of the eight counties in Connecticut, Windham County, located in the northeastern corner along the Massachusetts and Rhode Island borders, ranks as the worst to live in. At 78.5 years, life expectancy at birth in the county is about 2.5 years shy of the state average. Windham County residents are also less likely to have a college education and more likely to live below the poverty line than the typical Connecticut resident.

Connecticut is one of only five states to report population decline over the last five years, contracting by 0.5% over that period. Windham County is losing residents even faster than the state as a whole, reporting a 1.1% contraction in the last half decade.

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Delaware: Kent County
> Largest place in county: Dover
> 5-yr. population change: +5.5% (state: +4.4%)
> Poverty rate: 13.5% (state: 11.8%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 23.7% (state: 32.0%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.8 years (state: 78.5 years)

A geographically small state, Delaware has only three counties. As a result, even though Kent County ranks as the worst county to live in the state, the disparity between the county and the state as a whole in several key socioeconomic indicators is not especially pronounced. The county’s poverty rate of 13.5% is only slightly higher than the 11.8% state rate. Similarly, at 77.8 years, life expectancy at birth in Kent County is less than a year below the 78.5 year average across Delaware.

However, adults living in Kent are considerably less likely to have a four-year college degree than the typical adult in Delaware. Only 23.7% of the county’s 25 and older population have a bachelor’s degree compared to 32.0% of Delaware’s 25 and older population.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Florida: Hamilton County
> Largest place in county: Jasper
> 5-yr. population change: -1.0% (state: +8.0%)
> Poverty rate: 29.9% (state: 14.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 7.9% (state: 29.9%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.2 years (state: 80.2 years)

Florida is one of the fastest growing states in the country, reporting 8% population growth over the last five years. Hamilton County, however, located in northern Florida along the Georgia border, is bucking the state trend, reporting a 1% population decline over the same period.

The worst county to live in in the Sunshine State, Hamilton has a poverty rate of 29.9% — more than double the statewide rate of 14.0%. Health outcomes are also lagging in the county as the local life expectancy at birth is 76.2 years, four years shy of the statewide average.

Source: Bubba73 (Jud McCranie) / Wikimedia Commons

Georgia: Ben Hill County
> Largest place in county: Fitzgerald
> 5-yr. population change: -2.9% (state: +5.0%)
> Poverty rate: 29.6% (state: 15.1%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 11.2% (state: 31.3%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 73.0 years (state: 77.9 years)

Ben Hill County, located in south-central Georgia, ranks as the worst place to live in the state. Health outcomes in the state lag considerably behind much of the rest of the state, as local life expectancy at birth is just 73 years, compared to about 78 years across Georgia.

Poverty can have a negative impact on health outcomes, including life expectancy, as poorer Americans often struggle to afford health care and healthy lifestyle choices. The poverty rate in Ben Hill County of 29.6% is nearly double the 15.1% poverty rate across Georgia.