Special Report

America's Poorest Counties

Greene+County+Alabama | Horses on Farmland- Boligee, AL (Greene County)
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The wealthiest country in the world by gross domestic product, the United States has a relatively high standard of living. After climbing steadily for decades, the median household income in the U.S. is now about $75,000 per year, up from $30,000 in 1990

Though most of the country has benefited meaningfully from years of steady GDP growth and productivity gains, some parts of the country have not. Due to a range of factors, including deindustrialization, limited access to education, and stalled economic development, in many American communities, household incomes remain at or below levels not seen on a national scale since the 1980s and early 1990s. 

Using five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s 25 poorest counties. We ranked all U.S. counties and county equivalents on median household income. All supplemental data are also five-year estimates from the 2022 ACS. 

Among the counties and parishes on this list, median household incomes range from $32,844 per year to just $17,900. In nearly all of them, the share of the population living below the poverty line is more than double the 12.5% U.S. poverty rate. 

Nearly every county on this list is in the South, including five in Mississippi, the only state where most households earn less than $55,000 a year. The only two counties that are not in the Southern U.S. are located in South Dakota and contain parts of American Indian Reservations — economically marginalized communities located on federal land.

Every county and county equivalent on this list is virtually entirely rural, and employment opportunities — well-paying or otherwise — are often in short supply. Nearly half of the 25 poorest U.S. counties and parishes have double-digit average five-year unemployment rates. In some cases, jobless rates exceed 15% and even 20%, well above the comparable 5.3% national jobless rate. (Here is a look at the worst U.S. counties to live in.)

Most well-paying jobs in the U.S. are open only to those with a college education — and in every county and parish on this list, the share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is below the 34.3% share of adults nationwide with a four-year degree. In over half of these places, fewer than 15% of the 25 and older adult population have a bachelor’s degree. (Here is a look at the colleges with the most upward mobility.)

Here are America’s poorest counties.

 

 

25. Owsley County, Kentucky

  • Median household income: $32,844 ($42,305 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 28.8% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 14.2% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 11.1% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 4,054
  • County seat: Booneville

24. Greene County, Alabama

  • Median household income: $32,796 ($42,353 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 32.9% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 4.5% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 16.7% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 7,706
  • County seat: Eutaw

23. Perry County, Alabama

  • Median household income: $32,332 ($42,817 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 32.8% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 15.6% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 15.2% (bottom 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 8,479
  • County seat: Marion

22. Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota

  • Median household income: $32,279 ($42,870 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 55.8% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 11.7% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 8.1% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 13,695
  • County seat: N/A

21. Lake County, Tennessee

  • Median household income: $32,064 ($43,085 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 27.9% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.9% (top 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 10.8% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 6,898
  • County seat: Tiptonville

20. Claiborne Parish, Louisiana

  • Median household income: $32,034 ($43,115 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 32.6% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 5.1% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 11.7% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 14,203
  • County seat: Homer

19. Magoffin County, Kentucky

  • Median household income: $31,927 ($43,222 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 30.4% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 12.8% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 10.9% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 11,647
  • County seat: Salyersville

18. Humphreys County, Mississippi

  • Median household income: $31,907 ($43,242 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 32.1% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 13.7% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 18.6% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 7,744
  • County seat: Belzoni

17. Hancock County, Tennessee

  • Median household income: $31,809 ($43,340 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 32.3% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 10.1% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 9.9% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 6,726
  • County seat: Sneedville

16. Hancock County, Georgia

  • Median household income: $31,767 ($43,382 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 27.5% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 6.2% (top 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 9.6% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 8,588
  • County seat: Sparta

15. Sumter County, Alabama

  • Median household income: $31,726 ($43,423 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 30.4% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 8.2% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 21.8% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 12,196
  • County seat: Livingston

14. Lee County, Kentucky

  • Median household income: $31,682 ($43,467 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 31.4% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 8.0% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 7.3% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 7,338
  • County seat: Beattyville

13. Jefferson County, Mississippi

  • Median household income: $31,544 ($43,605 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 31.8% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 5.4% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 19.7% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 7,207
  • County seat: Fayette

12. Jenkins County, Georgia

  • Median household income: $31,463 ($43,686 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 27.9% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 4.9% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 9.1% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 8,704
  • County seat: Millen

11. Quitman County, Mississippi

  • Median household income: $31,192 ($43,957 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 30.2% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 12.1% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 14.4% (bottom 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 6,113
  • County seat: Marks

10. East Carroll Parish, Louisiana

  • Median household income: $30,856 ($44,293 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 40.3% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 15.1% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 11.8% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 7,371
  • County seat: Lake Providence

9. Brooks County, Texas

  • Median household income: $30,566 ($44,583 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 33.2% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 2.1% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 19.1% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 7,059
  • County seat: Falfurrias

8. Presidio County, Texas

  • Median household income: $29,012 ($46,137 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 40.0% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 12.3% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 21.2% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 6,168
  • County seat: Marfa

7. Holmes County, Mississippi

  • Median household income: $28,818 ($46,331 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 35.0% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 8.8% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 14.7% (bottom 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 16,848
  • County seat: Lexington

6. Wolfe County, Kentucky

  • Median household income: $28,666 ($46,483 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 36.8% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 20.1% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 7.0% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 6,573
  • County seat: Campton

5. McDowell County, West Virginia

  • Median household income: $28,235 ($46,914 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 33.3% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 15.1% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 6.6% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 18,911
  • County seat: Welch

4. Dimmit County, Texas

  • Median household income: $27,374 ($47,775 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 43.6% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 4.7% (middle 50% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 14.6% (bottom 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 8,672
  • County seat: Carrizo Springs

3. Jackson County, South Dakota

  • Median household income: $26,078 ($49,071 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 38.4% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 7.4% (top 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 15.6% (bottom 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 2,838
  • County seat: Kadoka

2. Randolph County, Georgia

  • Median household income: $24,638 ($50,511 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 28.1% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 7.5% (top 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 12.4% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 6,365
  • County seat: Cuthbert

1. Issaquena County, Mississippi

  • Median household income: $17,900 ($57,249 less than U.S. median)
  • Poverty rate: 20.6% (top 25% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment: 12.1% (top 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Adults with bachelor’s degree or higher: 5.2% (bottom 10% among 3,142 U.S. counties and county equivalents)
  • Population: 1,206
  • County seat: Mayersville

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