Poorest States In America

We looked at the most recent census data to determine the states with the highest level of poverty and poor economies.

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Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2019. This is our third time ranking the poorest states in America.

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Why must we insist on always looking at the negative?

When we saw there was a really high number of searches for ‘poorest states’, we thought – well, we have to give people what they want. So here you go.

We get it – knowing the extremes helps put things into perspective; if we know where the poorest and richest places are, we can understand our lives easier. It’s a psychological thing.

At the end of the day, we ended up with this list of the poorest states in the US.

The general assumption for ranking the poorest states in America is not too hard to figure out; you have to know how much money people earn.

We took that factor into account, and ended up using a couple other metrics, too.

While the poorest state in the country is Mississippi, can you guess the poorest city in America? It’s Detroit for the second year in a row.

For exactly how we calculated these rankings, read on. Or, if you’re interested in reading something a little less depressing, check out:

How We Determined The Poorest States in the US

Poorest States In America Map For 2019

Click to enlarge

The first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think about determining the poorest places is to simply the poverty rate. That is, the number of people living below a federally established level of income for a household of a certain size.

However, we don’t think that one statistic wholly encompasses what it means to be one of the ‘poorest states’. So we looked at this set of criteria from the newly released 2013-2017 American Community Survey:

  • Poverty level
  • Unemployment rate
  • Median income

The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for improvement in the city or town. If more people are employed, the brighter the future looks and vice versa.

We ranked each state from 1 to 50 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the poorest.

We then averaged all the rankings for a state into a ‘Poor Score’ with the state having the lowest overall Poor Score crowned the ‘Poorest State In The US For 2019’.

You can learn more about the top ten below or skip to the end to see the rankings for every state.

1. Mississippi

Mississippi|Ms, MS

Median Income: $42,009
Unemployment Rate: 8.8%
Poverty Rate: 21.5%

We’re probably going to see a lot of southern states on this list. And we start with the absolute poorest: Mississippi.

While the Magnolia State has some of the nicest, most generous people in the country, the fact is, it’s a very poor place. It ranks at the top of every single category we measured.

2. New Mexico

New-Mexico|Nm, NM

Source: Public domain

Median Income: $46,718
Unemployment Rate: 7.7%
Poverty Rate: 20.6%

New Mexico is a pretty poor place too (though not nearly as poor as Mississippi).

A large number of people living on reservations and a high number of illegal immigrants skews the numbers a bit for the Land of Enchantment.

3. Alabama

Alabama|Al, AL

Median Income: $46,472
Unemployment Rate: 7.4%
Poverty Rate: 18.0%

Alabama households average about $46,400 a year – which is actually $4,500 more a year than their neighbors over in Mississippi earn. But that’s the 4th-lowest in the country.

4. Louisiana

Louisiana|La, LA

Source: Public domain

Median Income: $46,710
Unemployment Rate: 7.2%
Poverty Rate: 19.6%

If you’ve ever driven through Louisiana, you wouldn’t be too surprised it’s in the top 5.

People here work very, very hard, but due to the lack of thriving new technology, and a poor education system, it remains one of the poorest states in the nation.

5. West Virginia

West-Virginia|Wv, WV

Median Income: $44,061
Unemployment Rate: 7.2%
Poverty Rate: 17.8%

You might have thought you’d see West Virginia a lot higher up on this list. And it did move some spots from last year.

West Virginians earn the 3rd-lowest incomes in America ($44,061), but they’re decently employed, proving that folks in the Mountain State are hard workers. Plus, the cost of living is so low here, that even decent salaries go a long way.

6. Kentucky

Kentucky|Ky, KY

Median Income: $46,535
Unemployment Rate: 6.8%
Poverty Rate: 18.3%

Kentucky residents earn the 5th-lowest salaries ($46,535 a year), and nearly 1 in 5 residents lives in poverty.

On the bright side, ‘only’ 6.8% of the population in Kentucky is out of work, which is 19th-worst in America. That’s a good sign.

7. South Carolina

South-Carolina|Sc, SC

Source: Public domain

Median Income: $48,781
Unemployment Rate: 7.2%
Poverty Rate: 16.6%

You might be surprised to see South Carolina on here. Outside of Charleston, and a few other thriving beach communities, there are long stretches of highway where you come to small town after small town that are trying to survive during a time when tobacco and cotton are not necessarily booming anymore.

8. Arkansas

Arkansas|Ar, AR

Median Income: $43,813
Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
Poverty Rate: 18.1%

If you wanted to live a life of luxury, Arkansas certainly wouldn’t be a place to go.

Not that folks here aren’t super friendly. There’s just a lot more to be desired in their bank accounts, that’s all.

9. Georgia

Georgia|Ga, GA

Median Income: $52,977
Unemployment Rate: 7.5%
Poverty Rate: 16.9%

The Peach State is the pits when you consider 7.5% of the population was out of work last year, and 16.9% of the population lives in poverty. A lot of that has to do with the large segment of Atlanta, Macon and Savannah, which simply refuse to be responsible adults.

10. North Carolina

North-Carolina|Nc, NC

Median Income: $50,320
Unemployment Rate: 7.2%
Poverty Rate: 16.1%

North Carolina is an interesting state. Charlotte, the Raleigh region, and the coast are all filled with wealthy, successful people. But the rest of the population is pretty poor and way underemployed.

You could drive three hours and see completely different pockets of success in the Tar Heel State.

There You Have It — The Poorest States in the US

After measuring every wealth factor that makes sense, it’s clear – the south is definitely the poorest place you could live in our country.

While it’s bad news for the states we mentioned, we have to acknowledge the richest states to live in America. If you’re in New Hampshire, Hawaii or Minnesota, you’re doing pretty well.

Although, we think New Hampshire is overrated for wealth – it costs so damn much to live there, a great salary doesn’t go a long way.

Here’s a quick look at the richest of the list:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Hawaii
  3. Minnesota

For more reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest States In America For 2019

State Rank Population Median Income
Mississippi 1 2,986,220 $42,009
New Mexico 2 2,084,828 $46,718
Alabama 3 4,850,771 $46,472
Louisiana 4 4,663,461 $46,710
West Virginia 5 1,836,843 $44,061
Kentucky 6 4,424,376 $46,535
South Carolina 7 4,893,444 $48,781
Arkansas 8 2,977,944 $43,813
Georgia 9 10,201,635 $52,977
North Carolina 10 10,052,564 $50,320
Tennessee 11 6,597,381 $48,708
Michigan 12 9,925,568 $52,668
Florida 13 20,278,447 $50,883
Arizona 14 6,809,946 $53,510
Nevada 15 2,887,725 $55,434
Oklahoma 16 3,896,251 $49,767
Ohio 17 11,609,756 $52,407
California 18 38,982,847 $67,169
Oregon 19 4,025,127 $56,119
Indiana 20 6,614,418 $52,182
Missouri 21 6,075,300 $51,542
Illinois 22 12,854,526 $61,229
Idaho 23 1,657,375 $50,985
New York 24 19,798,228 $62,765
Montana 25 1,029,862 $50,801
Texas 26 27,419,612 $57,051
Rhode Island 27 1,056,138 $61,043
Pennsylvania 28 12,790,505 $56,951
Maine 29 1,330,158 $53,024
Kansas 30 2,903,820 $55,477
Delaware 31 943,732 $63,036
South Dakota 32 855,444 $54,126
Alaska 33 738,565 $76,114
Wisconsin 34 5,763,217 $56,759
Washington 35 7,169,967 $66,174
Connecticut 36 3,594,478 $73,781
Iowa 37 3,118,102 $56,570
New Jersey 38 8,960,161 $76,475
Nebraska 39 1,893,921 $56,675
Colorado 40 5,436,519 $65,458
Vermont 41 624,636 $57,808
Wyoming 42 583,200 $60,938
Virginia 43 8,365,952 $68,766
Massachusetts 44 6,789,319 $74,167
Utah 45 2,993,941 $65,325
Maryland 46 5,996,079 $78,916
North Dakota 47 745,475 $61,285
Minnesota 48 5,490,726 $65,699
Hawaii 49 1,421,658 $74,923
New Hampshire 50 1,331,848 $71,305

10 thoughts on “Poorest States In America

  1. Why were objective comments made about residents of all the states except for Georgia? There’s plenty of negative things to be said about people, rich and poor, of other states too.

  2. Your unemployment numbers are way off…by an outrageous margin. Some of your median income numbers don’t jive with official numbers either. Where did you get your data?

  3. I don’t know if you too into consideration the cost of living. The income in Mississippi may be much lower than in Minnesota, but it costs about 2.5 times as much for a comparable house in MN and the taxes are the 3rd highest in the country. I’m not at all sure your accounting is accurate.

  4. California is heavily in debt and has a major homeless problem but yah these states are the poorest. Seems like this was put together by liberals

  5. All the poorest states are all Red conservative Republican run, with exception of New mexico which swings between Dem and Republican run. And to those who say California is heavily in debt, Cal has the fifth largest economy in the world and provides the most tax dollars to the U.S. govt. The red states all provide the least in Tax dollars to the U.S.

    I live in AZ which is Republican run and is the 15th poorest and I have relatives who live in Arkansas (where I wouldn’t live if you paid me to) and I can assure you the southern Red states are waaay poorer than any state Red or Blue out west.

    I’d say overall it’s a tie between Mississippi and Alabama as the worst, They have towns with over 20k in population in both Miss. and Alabama that barely have a grocery store and some don’t have Any grocery stores. Alabama also has the two highest crime rate cities in the U.S. Anniston and Bessimer and both rank very high in poverty as well. With high poverty comes high crime rate.

    If you have grown up in one of the not so poor or Blue states and have never been to one of the 10 poorest states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama or Georgia you wouldn’t believe the poverty you see there driving thru some of the towns and yet, they will keep supporting/voting Republicans against their own well being, you can’t fix stupid and that is also a tie in with the poorest states they also have the worst / lowest education levels.

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