The Poorest County In Every State

Incomes have been on the rise in the United States for well over a decade. Since 2010, the typical American household’s earnings climbed between 0.9% and 6.1% annually. Still, in recent years, incomes have not been rising fast enough to offset inflation. Accounting for the rising cost of living, real incomes in the U.S. fell by nearly 3% from 2019 to 2021, the latest years of available data, which notably does not include the historic inflation high of 9.1% (as measured by the consumer price index) reported in June 2022. 

While no one has been spared from surging prices, Americans on the low end of the income spectrum are disproportionately impacted. During inflationary periods, higher-income Americans can cut back on spending and reduce the impact of rising costs. Meanwhile, lower earning Americans,, who spend a larger share of their income on necessities such as food, housing, and gas, cannot. (These are the states where inflation is causing the most stress.)

Though inflation has cooled somewhat in recent months, communities across the country are still being squeezed. In these places, incomes tend to be far lower than what is typical across the state and the country as a whole. 

Using five-year median household income estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the poorest county or county equivalent in each state. In every place on this list, incomes are anywhere from 12% to 59% lower than they are across the state. 

While every county on this list ranks as the poorest in its respective state, levels of financial hardship vary considerably. In many Southern states, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, most households in the poorest counties earn less than $30,000 a year. In wealthier states, such as Hawaii, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, even the poorest counties have median incomes that closely align with what the typical American household earns. 

Though income levels range among the counties on this list, some key measures tend to align. For example, in all but five of these counties, the unemployment rate is higher than it is across the state as a whole. Similarly, incomes tend to rise with levels of educational attainment, and in all but two counties on this list, adults are less likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher than the typical adult in the state. (These are the 25 highest paying college majors.)

Click here to see the poorest county in every state.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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