Special Report

The Worst County To Live In Every State

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Massachusetts: Hampden County
> Largest place in county: Springfield
> 5-yr. population change: +0.3% (state: +2.9%)
> Poverty rate: 16.4% (state: 10.3%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 27.1% (state: 43.7%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.2 years (state: 80.6 years)

Hampden County, located in southern Massachusetts along the Connecticut border, ranks as the worst county in which to live in the state. Of the 14 counties in the state, Hampden has the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rate, at 27.1%. Meanwhile, 43.7% of adults across Massachusetts have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Hampden County also has some of the worst health outcomes in the state. Life expectancy at birth in the county is 78.2 years, nearly 2.5 years below the statewide average.

Michigan: Clare County
> Largest place in county: Clare
> 5-yr. population change: -0.4% (state: +0.8%)
> Poverty rate: 22.7% (state: 14.4%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 12.6% (state: 29.1%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 74.9 years (state: 78.1 years)

Clare County, Michigan, is centrally located on the state’s Lower Peninsula. A college education is linked to longer life expectancies, greater financial security, and a stronger sense of control over one’s life — and Clare County has one of the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rates in Michigan. Only 12.6% of the local adult population have a bachelor’s degree or higher, less than half the 29.1% share of adults with a college degree across the state.

Health outcomes in Clare County also lag behind much of the state. Life expectancy at birth in the state is just 74.9 years, over three years shorter than the average across Michigan.

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

Minnesota: Wadena County
> Largest place in county: Wadena
> 5-yr. population change: -0.7% (state: +3.3%)
> Poverty rate: 14.3% (state: 9.7%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 13.8% (state: 36.1%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.1 years (state: 80.9 years)

Wadena County ranks as the worst place to live in Minnesota. Life expectancy at birth in the county is nearly half a decade less than it is across the state as a whole. College-educated adults are more likely to report better health outcomes than those without a college degree, and in Wadena County, just 13.8% of the 25 and older population have a bachelor’s degree or higher, about half the share of adults with a four-year degree across Minnesota.

Like many U.S. counties lagging in key socioeconomic indicators, Wadena County’s population is shrinking. Over the last five years, the number of people living there fell by 0.7%, even as Minnesota’s population expanded by 3.3%.

Source: BOB WESTON / Getty Images

Mississippi: Holmes County
> Largest place in county: Durant
> 5-yr. population change: -6.5% (state: +0.002%)
> Poverty rate: 42.4% (state: 20.3%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 10.2% (state: 22.0%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 70.6 years (state: 74.9 years)

Holmes County, located in central Mississippi, ranks as the worst county to live in in the state. Mississippi is the poorest state in the country, with a 20.3% poverty rate — and Holmes County is the poorest county in the state, with a 42.4% poverty rate, more than double the rate across Mississippi.

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, life expectancy at birth in Holmes County is just 70.6 years, well below the 74.9 year average life expectancy statewide and 79.2 year average nationwide.

Source: Brian Stansberry / Wikimedia Commons

Missouri: Pemiscot County
> Largest place in county: Caruthersville
> 5-yr. population change: -7.5% (state: +1.3%)
> Poverty rate: 27.4% (state: 13.7%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 12.7% (state: 29.2%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 71.5 years (state: 77.3 years)

Pemiscot County ranks as the worst county to live in in Missouri. The local poverty rate of 27.4% is double the 13.7% poverty rate across the state. Health outcomes in the county also lag behind much of the rest of the state. Life expectancy at birth in the state is just 71.5 years, well below the 77.3 year average across Missouri.

Like many U.S. counties lagging in key socioeconomic indicators, Pemiscot County’s population is shrinking. Over the last five years, the number of people living there fell by 7.5%, even as Missouri’s population expanded by 1.3%.