Special Report

The Worst County To Live In Every State

Source: Ichabod / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas: Wyandotte County
> Largest place in county: Kansas City
> 5-yr. population change: +3.4% (state: +1.0%)
> Poverty rate: 19.2% (state: 12.0%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 18.1% (state: 33.4%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.8 years (state: 78.5 years)

Wyandotte County, Kansas, situated directly across the state border from Kansas City, Missouri, ranks as the worst county to live in in the state. One of the poorest parts of the state, the county has a 19.2% poverty rate — well above the 12.0% statewide rate.

Both on an individual basis and across broad populations, incomes and financial security tend to rise with educational attainment. In Wyandotte County, only 18.1% of the adult population have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 33.4% of adults in Kansas.

Source: brier5hill / Flickr

Kentucky: Leslie County
> Largest place in county: Hyden
> 5-yr. population change: -7.6% (state: +1.5%)
> Poverty rate: 38.0% (state: 17.3%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 8.7% (state: 24.2%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 70.4 years (state: 75.6 years)

Leslie County, Kentucky ranks as the worst place to live in the state. Fewer than one in every 10 area adults have a bachelor’s degree compared to nearly one in every four adults in Kentucky who do. Both on an individual basis and across broad populations, incomes and financial security tend to rise with educational attainment. In Leslie County, 38.0% of the population live below the poverty line, more than double the statewide poverty rate of 17.3%.

Like many U.S. counties lagging in key socioeconomic indicators, Leslie County’s population is shrinking. Over the last five years, the number of people living there fell by 7.6%, even as Kentucky’s population expanded by 1.5%.

Source: Anthony George / Flickr

Louisiana: Madison Parish
> Largest place in parish: Tallulah
> 5-yr. population change: -5.8% (state: +1.4%)
> Poverty rate: 36.4% (state: 19.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 12.8% (state: 24.1%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 72.0 years (state: 76.1 years)

Louisiana’s Madison Parish is the worst parish to live in the state. Despite having a strong agricultural industry as one of the state’s leading corn producers, it is one of the poorest counties or county equivalents in the United States. An estimated 36.4% of the local population live below the poverty line, well above the state poverty rate of 19.2%.

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. Partially as a result, at just 72.0 years, life expectancy at birth in the parish is four years below the state average.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Maine: Somerset County
> Largest place in county: Skowhegan
> 5-yr. population change: -2.4% (state: +0.5%)
> Poverty rate: 20.4% (state: 11.8%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 16.5% (state: 31.8%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.5 years (state: 78.7 years)

Somerset County, Maine, stretches from the country’s northern border with Canada down through the central part of the state. The county ranks as the worst county in the state to live in largely because of the prevalence of economic hardship. The county poverty rate of 20.4% is nearly double the 11.8% state poverty rate.

A college education is linked to longer life expectancies, greater financial security, and a stronger sense of control over one’s life. In Somerset County, however, only 16.5% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, nearly half the 31.8% share of adults across Maine who do.

Maryland: Somerset County
> Largest place in county: Princess Anne
> 5-yr. population change: -1.8% (state: +2.2%)
> Poverty rate: 21.7% (state: 9.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 14.4% (state: 40.2%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.5 years (state: 79.2 years)

Maryland is one of the best-educated states in the country, with a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of over 40%. Not all parts of the state are well educated, however. In Somerset County, located on the Delmarva Peninsula, only 14.4% of the adult population have a four-year degree.

A college education is linked to longer life expectancies and greater financial security. In Somerset County, residents are more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line as the typical Maryland resident, and life expectancy at birth is nearly four years shy of the state average of 79.2 years.