Special Report

The Worst County To Live In Every State

Source: Pigdogx / Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma: Okfuskee County
> Largest place in county: Okemah
> 5-yr. population change: -1.6% (state: +3.0%)
> Poverty rate: 26.3% (state: 15.7%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 11.6% (state: 25.5%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 69.6 years (state: 76.0 years)

Okfuskee County, in east-central Oklahoma, ranks as the worst county to live in in the state. Major employers in the area include several manufacturing facilities and a correctional facility, but jobs appear to be low paying. The typical household in the county earns just $38,411 a year, and 26.3% of the local population live below the poverty line — compared to a median income of $52,919 and a poverty rate of 15.7% across Oklahoma.

Of the 77 counties that make up Oklahoma, Okfuskee is the only one where life expectancy at birth is below 70 years. Across the state, life expectancy at birth is 76 years.

Source: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives / Wikimedia Commons

Oregon: Malheur County
> Largest place in county: Ontario
> 5-yr. population change: -1.1% (state: +5.9%)
> Poverty rate: 21.8% (state: 13.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 13.7% (state: 33.7%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 years (state: 79.9 years)

Oregon is one of the fastest growing states in the country, reporting 5.9% population growth over the last five years. Malheur County, however, located in the southeastern part of the state along the Idaho and Nevada borders, is bucking the trend, reporting a 1.1% population decline over the same period.

The worst county to live in in the state, Malheur has a poverty rate of 21.8% — well above the statewide rate of 13.2%. Health outcomes are also lagging in the county as the local life expectancy at birth is 78.1 years, nearly two years shy of the statewide average.

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Pennsylvania: Fayette County
> Largest place in county: Uniontown
> 5-yr. population change: -3.0% (state: +0.3%)
> Poverty rate: 17.3% (state: 12.4%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 17.3% (state: 31.4%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.2 years (state: 78.4 years)

Fayette County, located near the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, ranks as the worst county to live in in the state. An estimated 17.3% of the local population live below the poverty line, one of the top five highest poverty rates of all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. A lack of employment opportunities likely partially explains the widespread financial hardship as the local monthly unemployment rate stands at 7.0%, the second highest of any county in the state.

Life expectancy in the county also lags considerably behind much of the rest of the state. At birth, life expectancy in Fayette County is only 75.2 years, compared to the 78.4 year average across Pennsylvania.

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Rhode Island: Providence County
> Largest place in county: Providence
> 5-yr. population change: +1.0% (state: +0.4%)
> Poverty rate: 15.2% (state: 12.4%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 29.0% (state: 34.2%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.4 years (state: 79.8 years)

A geographically small state, Rhode Island has only five counties. As a result, even though Providence 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 poverty rate of 15.2% is not much higher than the 12.4% state rate. Similarly, at 79.4 years, life expectancy at birth in the county is nearly on par with the 79.8 year average across the state.

However, adults living in Providence County are considerably less likely to have a four-year college degree than the typical adult in Rhode Island. Only 29.0% of the 25 and older population in the county have a bachelor’s degree compared to 34.2% of Rhode Island’s 25 and older population.

South Carolina: Dillon County
> Largest place in county: Dillon
> 5-yr. population change: -2.7% (state: +6.2%)
> Poverty rate: 32.6% (state: 15.2%)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 11.1% (state: 28.1%)
> Life expectancy at birth: 72.9 years (state: 77.1 years)

South Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country, reporting 6.2% population growth over the last five years. Dillon County, however, located in the northeastern part of the state along the North Carolina border, is bucking the trend, reporting a 2.7% population decline over the same period.

The worst county to live in in the state, Dillon has a poverty rate of 32.6% — more than double the statewide rate of 15.2%. Health outcomes are also lagging in Dillon County as the local life expectancy at birth is 72.9 years, more than four years shy of the statewide average.