The 10 Poorest States In The United States For 2024

The poorest states in the US are Mississippi and Louisiana for 2024 based on Saturday Night Science.

Poorest states in the United States research summary. We used Saturday Night Science to research the states with the poorest population for 2024. We looked at the poverty level of each state using the most reent American Community Survey 2018-2022 vintage. Here’s what we found.

  • The state with the highest poverty level is Mississippi. 19.20% of people in Mississippi live below the poverty line.

  • The state with the lowest poverty level is New Hampshire. 7.33% of people in New Hampshire live below the poverty line.

  • The United States has 41,502,065 people living in poverty which is 12.50% of the population.

  • The poorest states in the United States based on poverty level are Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Poorest States In America Map

Click to enlarge

Table Of Contents: Top Ten | Methodology | Summary | Table

Why must we insist on always looking at the negative in the United States? 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.

The United States is by far the richest country in the world, when you measure total wealth across the board. When you measure average income per resident by country, Americans are the 6th wealthiest. The poorest place in earth? Believe it or not, but there are 5 countries in Africa where folks make less than $1,000 a day annually.

Here in the US the average poverty rate for a state is 12.50%, down a full one percentage point over the last several years.

Poverty Level By State In The United States Map

Click to enlarge

What’s the poorest state in America for 2024? It turns out Mississippi is the poorest state in the country. Mississippi is having a rough week since we also just named it one of the worst states in America for 2024.

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

Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your state ranked. Or check out more on the poorest cities to live in America.

For more positive news, feel free to check out the best places to live in the country and the the best states in the United States.

The 10 Poorest States In The United States For 2024

1. Mississippi

Mississippi|Ms, MS

Source: Wikipedia User | CC BY-SA 2.0

Population: 2,958,846
Poverty Level: 19.2% (First worst)
Median Income: $52,985 (First worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.4% (Third worst)
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
More On Mississippi: Rent

We’re in Mississippi, the nation’s first poorest state. In Mississippi, 19.2% of people live in poverty, meaning nearly 1 in 4 families earns less than about $25,000 annually. That’s the same poverty rate as the African nation of Namibia. That’s poor. Factors that contribute to the very poor atmosphere here are a 6.42% unemployment rate, and up until a couple years ago, 1 in 4 Mississippians wasn’t finishing high school. Hard to get ahead when you don’t study.

When you google mississippi, the first auto suggest is why is mississippi so poor. SO why is Mississippi so poor? For many of the reasons we’ve already talked about before. It’s just worse here than anywhere else. Poor education and limited job opportunities are a big factor. High incarceration rates and a history of racial segregation has held back a large percentage of the population. For many Mississippians, it’s a generational problem. And for quite a few of them, a government safety net of welfare and unemployment makes being poor a lifetime goal.

There are limitless opportunities in Mississippi, as there are in the other states on this list. Being poor is not a life sentence. While these states have large populations that have been poor for ages, it doesn’t have to be so.

2. Louisiana

Louisiana|La, LA

Source: Public domain

Population: 4,640,546
Poverty Level: 18.7% (Second worst)
Median Income: $57,852 (Fourth worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.6% (Second worst)
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
More On Louisiana: Rent

We’re heading back to the south where we will remain for most of the rest of our unwealthy excursion. The next stop takes us to Louisiana. Too bad we don’t have enough money to buy booze – they look like they’re having so much fun.

Here, more than 18.7% of residents live in poverty, and families command a yearly paycheck of around $57,852. That’s not enough for many people here to climb the success ladder.

Other statistics that are eye-opening? Louisiana is last in the nation for income gap by gender. Louisianans are 3rd worst for food insecurity and 3rd worst for education scores. The last statistic makes it tough to entice job growth, since the state doesn’t have the educated population to support it.

Corporate subsidies aren’t helping things in Louisiana. Look at this graph that depicts how much taxpayer money goes from public to private coffers in the Pelican State.

Louisiana’s abundant natural resources is a blessing and a curse. While the state enjoys the windfalls that come with oil and natural gas extraction, many of its residents have become dependent on the energy sector for a paycheck. And It won’t last forever.

There’s a sense of fatalism in Louisiana, too. Poor people just remain…poor here. It is what it is they say. All we can do is pray they say. There’s little urgency here to seek change.

Even though you’re poor, there’s still plenty to do on a budget. Like…actually no all of these things suck. Being broke means you can’t do fun stuff. Never mind.

3. New Mexico

New-Mexico|Nm, NM

Source: Public domain

Population: 2,112,463
Poverty Level: 18.3% (Third worst)
Median Income: $58,722 (Fifth worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.2% (Seventh worst)
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
More On New Mexico: Rent

In New Mexico, 18.3% of residents live in poverty, and families bring in about $58,722 a year. That’s about $10,000 less than the national average. 1 in 3 kids lives in poverty here, which is one big reason New Mexico ranked last in the nation for places to raise a family.

Native American reservations and illegal immigrants pad the poverty numbers here, too.

When you look at the nation’s most federally dependent states, New Mexico is at the top. That means New Mexico can’t collect enough from income taxes, and must rely on federal subsidies to help pay for schools, roads, health care and welfare programs.

And we just talked about Louisiana – they receive the MOST assistance from the US government to make up THEIR state budget.

Apparently, things are getting worse in New Mexico, not better. More young working age adults are leaving the state than coming into it, which means more and more federal assistance will be needed down the road.

There’s hope though ,It’s not like there aren’t success stories coming out of New Mexico… Microsoft was founded in Albuquerque and Jeff Bezos grew up in Albuquerque.

4. West Virginia

West-Virginia|Wv, WV

Source: Wikipedia User | CC BY 2.0

Population: 1,792,967
Poverty Level: 16.8% (Fourth worst)
Median Income: $55,217 (Second worst)
Unemployment Rate: 6.1% (Ninth worst)
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
More On West Virginia: Rent

The poverty rate is 16.8% in West Virginia, and families bring in about $55,217 a year – both very low numbers. However, a couple bright spots keep West Virginians from ranking as even poorer. The unemployment rate isn’t so bad here, so that’s good. And the cost of living is so low here that low salaries mean more families can get by and remain out of poverty.

However, when Walmart is your state’s biggest employer, that’s indicative of a struggling worker base.

West Virginia is in a tough spot. It’s a beautiful state, but all those rolling hills means it’s hard to build big cities and industry. And prescription meds and booze have taken a toll on a large part of the population – West Virginia ranks first in the nation for overdoses.

Migration studies have shown that 60% more people moved out of West Virginia than moved in. And, West Virginia is the only state where death rates exceed birth rates.

5. Arkansas

Arkansas|Ar, AR

Source: Wikipedia User | CC BY-SA 4.0

Population: 3,018,669
Poverty Level: 16.2% (Fifth worst)
Median Income: $56,335 (Third worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.1% (23rd worst)
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
More On Arkansas: Rent

Next on our list of poorest states in America is #5 ranked Arkansas. Here in Arkansas, a lot of bank accounts are empty. The Natural State has an 16.2% poverty rate, and families bring in about $56,335 a year. We should note, here in Arkansas, smaller paychecks can be stretched much further than in other states, but it’s still tough times here.

Arkansas used to be pretty much the poorest place in the country, but they’re not as poor as before. Back in the 1940s, nearly half of all Arkies lived in poverty. So that’s good – economically, slowly, things are improving here. Of course not everyone grows up poor here. The Clintons are from Arkansas, and they’re certainly not broke. Sam Walton is totally loaded, too. He’s from Arkansas, and is the founder of Walmart.

6. Kentucky

Kentucky|Ky, KY

Source: Wikipedia User | CC BY-SA 3.0

Population: 4,502,935
Poverty Level: 16.1% (Sixth worst)
Median Income: $60,183 (Seventh worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.1% (25th worst)
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 1)
More On Kentucky: Rent

Kentucky residents earn the 5th lowest salaries in the nation – at $60,183 a year. And 1 in 5 Kentucky peeps lives in poverty. If there is a bright side here, at least the unemployment rate is about average. So there are opportunities here to get ahead here.

Just about every state has its haves and have nots. Here in Kentucky, the Bluegrass area that consists of Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati suburbs are all doing just fine. Several large companies make their headquarters here.

But the rest of Kentucky is pretty broke. The coal mines of eastern and western Kentucky are in decline, as is the tobacco industry. Small towns outside of Kentucky’s urban areas are fading from importance – and 2 in 3 people in Kentucky lives in these boonies.

There’s ways you can get out of the poorhouse, Kentucky guy. People make like $50 a week giving blood, but you have to donate good blood. I don’t know if there’s more meth or mountain dew running through a Kentucky man’s veins.

If you’re living in Section 8 or Section 1, keep your head up, Kentucky. After all, This guy was poor and he ended up saving a whole kingdom. And HE was broke as hell, but he wound up being the star on a kid’s television show.

Yeah I’m proud to be a coal miner’s daughter.

7. Alabama

Alabama|Al, AL

Source: Wikipedia User | CC BY-SA 4.0

Population: 5,028,092
Poverty Level: 15.7% (Seventh worst)
Median Income: $59,609 (Sixth worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.2% (22nd worst)
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
More On Alabama: Rent

Lots of people in Alabama are bro to the oke. Families here bring in about $59,609 as a household annually – earning about $1,000 less than the average household each month. And about 1 in 5 residents lives in poverty here.

Why is Alabama so poor? Like other states we’ve talked about so far, one side will say unregulated capitalism has created severe poverty here. Other sides will say Alabamans aren’t working hard enough – and can control their own financial fate.

We’re not going to take sides on this, but the poverty is alarming nonetheless. In many Alabama counties, it looks third world, where poverty rates reach 40%.

Alabama’s generational poverty is having an impact on the long term well being of its residents. Many of these poorest counties are also the fattest counties in the state, proof that cheap food is bad for us.

The United Nations usually does research on poverty across the world, but recently, visited parts of America to see how bad poverty is here. Their first stop? Alabama. Their report was quite compelling, and discussed conditions similar to what we see abroad.

You know who isn’t poor in Alabama? Their head coach. He made $11 million last year – more than any other public figure in the state. I guess you get what you pay for – Alabama has been winning national titles left and right lately.

8. Oklahoma

Oklahoma|Ok, OK

Source: Wikipedia User | CC BY-SA 2.5

Population: 3,970,497
Poverty Level: 15.2% (Eighth worst)
Median Income: $61,364 (Eighth worst)
Unemployment Rate: 4.9% (32nd worst)
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
More On Oklahoma: Rent

Oklahoma ranks as the eighth poorest in America for 2024. The poverty reaches from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and I’ve seen it up close. There are neighborhoods where three out of four houses are boarded up, but cars in every driveway. It’s the kind of poverty where it makes you wonder how do we help these people?

In more general terms, the state ranked in the bottom ten for both median incomes and overall poverty level, which is a slightly jump from recent years. The unemployment rate isn’t unreasonably high, which is why Oklahoma finds itself on the bottom of this list.

On a more positive note, while state is super flat, there’s actually a lot to do and the weather is nice. And there definitely parts of the state that are perfectly fine to call home, you just need to know where to look.

9. South Carolina

South-Carolina|Sc, SC

Source: Public domain

Population: 5,142,750
Poverty Level: 14.4% (Ninth worst)
Median Income: $63,623 (Ninth worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.2% (2worst)
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
More On South Carolina: Rent

We’ve arrived in South Carolina, the ninth poorest state in America. We’ll grab something off the dollar menu cause that’s all we can afford tonight.

South Carolina peeps are straight strugglin. They have a poverty rate of 14.4%, households bringing in $63,623 annually, and 90% of working adults here live paycheck to paycheck.

In America, 75% of full-time workers live paycheck to paycheck. That’s a real big difference.

Many of the problems in SC stem from a lack of good genes. No that’s mean. The real issue here in South Carolina is complex. For instance, Rural South Carolina communities that rely heavily on agriculture are so broke that locals have dubbed the area the Corridor of Shame.

As we’ll see as we continue to move through this list, most of our poorest states are in the south. There are many theories as to why the south is so poor, but many economists agree that going back to Civil War days, the northern states invested in infrastructure and technology, while the south remained committed to farming. As a result, education fell behind, as did the southern economy.

But if you ask people in places like South Carolina if they ‘think’ they’re poor, many will likely tell you ‘no.’ On paper, they don’t have a lot, but a simple life with God, friends and family nearby is all they need.

10. Tennessee

Tennessee|Tn, TN

Source: Wikipedia User | CC BY-SA 3.0

Population: 6,923,772
Poverty Level: 14.0% (Tenth worst)
Median Income: $64,035 (Tenth worst)
Unemployment Rate: 5.0% (29th worst)
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
More On Tennessee: Rent

Tennessee is an interesting state. It ranks as the tenth poorest in the nation, but has varying levels of wealth across the state. Nashville and Germantown are all filled with wealthy, successful people, but also have some high levels of income inequality. The rest of the state population is pretty poor and way underemployed relative to the rest of the country.

You could drive three hours and see completely different pockets of success in Tennessee. The poverty level sits at 14.0%, while unemployment measures 5.04% — the 29th worst in the country. People here work very, very hard, but due to the lack of thriving new technology, and a relatively poor education system, it remains one of the poorer states in the nation.

On the brighter side, Tennessee is starting to get its crime rates under control and has some of the more up and coming cities in the country.

Methodology: How We Determined The Poorest States in the US

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

So we used Saturday Night Science to compare the poverty level of each state from the newly released 2018-2022 American Community Survey.

We ranked each state from 1 to 50 based on the poverty level, with one being the poorest. We crowned the state with the highest poverty rate the ‘Poorest State In The US For 2024.’ We updated this article for 2024. This list is our tenth time ranking the poorest states in the United States.

If you’d like to see the complete list of states, from poorest to richest, scroll to the bottom of this post to see the unabridged chart.

Summary: The Poorest States In The Country

If you’re poor in America, there are heart warming rags to riches stories all over he place that you can use as inspiration. Slumdog Millionaire, Pretty Woman, heck even Annie. Most people are probably not going to get adopted by someone, but we’d be willing to bet if America’s poorest states changed their policies, their situations would follow suit.

If you’re curious enough, here are the richest states in the USA, according to science. Apparently, things are ‘all that’ when it comes to northeast America:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Utah
  3. Maryland

For more reading, check out:

Poverty Level By State In The United States For 2024?

Rank State Population Poverty Rate Median Income Median Home Value Unemployment Rate
1 Mississippi 2,958,846 19.2% $52,985 $174,931 6.4%
2 Louisiana 4,640,546 18.7% $57,852 $199,312 6.6%
3 New Mexico 2,112,463 18.3% $58,722 $293,040 6.2%
4 West Virginia 1,792,967 16.8% $55,217 $157,498 6.1%
5 Arkansas 3,018,669 16.2% $56,335 $199,259 5.1%
6 Kentucky 4,502,935 16.1% $60,183 $197,457 5.1%
7 Alabama 5,028,092 15.7% $59,609 $221,926 5.2%
8 Oklahoma 3,970,497 15.2% $61,364 $198,107 4.9%
9 South Carolina 5,142,750 14.4% $63,623 $287,064 5.2%
10 Tennessee 6,923,772 14.0% $64,035 $309,795 5.0%
11 Texas 29,243,342 13.9% $73,035 $298,423 5.2%
12 New York 19,994,379 13.6% $81,386 $452,476 6.2%
13 Georgia 10,722,325 13.5% $71,355 $319,165 5.2%
14 North Carolina 10,470,214 13.3% $66,186 $320,323 5.1%
15 Ohio 11,774,683 13.3% $66,990 $218,216 5.0%
16 Michigan 10,057,921 13.1% $68,505 $233,858 6.0%
17 Arizona 7,172,282 13.1% $72,581 $423,568 5.4%
18 Florida 21,634,529 12.9% $67,917 $392,904 5.0%
19 Missouri 6,154,422 12.8% $65,920 $237,658 4.3%
20 Nevada 3,104,817 12.7% $71,646 $418,963 7.0%
21 Montana 1,091,840 12.4% $66,341 $447,821 3.9%
22 Indiana 6,784,403 12.3% $67,173 $230,053 4.5%
23 South Dakota 890,342 12.3% $69,457 $293,181 3.1%
24 California 39,356,104 12.1% $91,905 $746,472 6.4%
25 Oregon 4,229,374 11.9% $76,632 $487,750 5.5%
26 Pennsylvania 12,989,208 11.8% $73,170 $256,703 5.4%
27 Illinois 12,757,634 11.8% $78,433 $252,041 6.0%
28 Kansas 2,935,922 11.6% $69,747 $216,853 4.0%
29 Rhode Island 1,094,250 11.2% $81,370 $436,519 5.9%
30 Delaware 993,635 11.1% $79,325 $373,328 5.4%
31 Iowa 3,188,836 11.1% $70,571 $210,484 3.8%
32 Idaho 1,854,109 11.0% $70,214 $442,087 3.8%
33 Maine 1,366,949 10.9% $68,251 $386,587 4.0%
34 North Dakota 776,874 10.8% $73,959 $251,027 2.9%
35 Wyoming 577,929 10.7% $72,495 $338,887 3.8%
36 Wisconsin 5,882,128 10.7% $72,458 $286,891 3.4%
37 Alaska 734,821 10.5% $86,370 $349,554 6.4%
38 Vermont 643,816 10.4% $74,014 $384,154 3.8%
39 Nebraska 1,958,939 10.4% $71,722 $249,973 3.1%
40 Connecticut 3,611,317 10.1% $90,213 $381,629 5.9%
41 Virginia 8,624,511 10.0% $87,249 $371,544 4.4%
42 Massachusetts 6,984,205 9.9% $96,505 $589,253 5.3%
43 Washington 7,688,549 9.9% $90,325 $568,346 5.0%
44 New Jersey 9,249,063 9.7% $97,126 $495,846 6.2%
45 Hawaii 1,450,589 9.6% $94,814 $830,193 5.1%
46 Colorado 5,770,790 9.6% $87,598 $531,605 4.5%
47 Minnesota 5,695,292 9.3% $84,313 $324,667 4.0%
48 Maryland 6,161,707 9.3% $98,461 $404,251 5.1%
49 Utah 3,283,809 8.5% $86,833 $510,835 3.4%
50 New Hampshire 1,379,610 7.3% $90,845 $448,250 3.6%
About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

11 thoughts on “The 10 Poorest States In The United States For 2024

  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 love New Jersey i pray that one day i will live in America. I doubt it that there are poor States in America

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. I just love the way that this article blames the poor people and minorities for the discrimination and lack of education foisted upon them by their corrupt governments! Can anyone say voter suppression and gerrymandering!

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