Special Report

18 States Where Americans Make the Least Money

Severe inflation continues to plague the United States economy, and those higher prices have been particularly hard to bear on those with lower pay. While incomes have been generally rising, they have not matched the inflation rate, eroding real wages.

According to census data released in September, the typical U.S. household income was $69,717 in 2021, about $4,000 higher compared to 2019, the last time the Census released an annual American Community Survey, having skipped a year due to data collection problems tied to the pandemic. 

While the median income increased nationwide, in many states, wages did not rise to the same degree. In states like Louisiana and Oklahoma, two of the poorest states in the country, incomes rose by about one-quarter of the national increase. In these states and others, incomes remain well below the national median. 

To identify the poorest states in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed one-year median household income estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey. The states listed are those with median household incomes of at least $5,000 below the national median of $69,717. Additional information on the percentage of households receiving SNAP (food stamps) benefits, educational attainment, median home value, and population are also one-year estimates from the 2021 ACS.

The vast majority of the poorest states in the country are in the South and the Midwest. In most, home values reflect the relatively low incomes in the state and are among the lowest in the country. (Here are cities with the cheapest housing.)

Educational attainment is a strong predictor of income, as workers with more education are more likely to have high-paying, secure jobs. Nationwide, the typical college graduate earns $61,073 a year, compared to the $35,019 for those with only a high school diploma and more than double the $28,085 median for those who never graduated high school. 

As might be expected, the states with the lowest median incomes tend to have far fewer college-educated adults than the national share of 35.0%. The five poorest states all rank among the 10 states with the fewest college-educated adults. (Here are America’s least educated states.)

Click here to see 18 states where Americans make the least money.

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