America’s Poorest States

These are America’s poorest states.

10. Oklahoma 
> Median household income: $43,225
> Population: 3,791,508 (23rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.2% (8th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.2% (16th highest)
Oklahoma remarkably low unemployment rate of 6.2% for a state that is among the nation’s poorest. The
poverty rate of 17.2% has inched up each year from the 2008 rate of 15.9%. The low median income suggests a need for higher paying jobs as Oklahoma relies heavily on agricultural production. Also, government and military, which tend to be low-paying jobs, account for the highest percentage of jobs in the state. But Oklahoma is also a major producer of oil and gas. Growth in the energy sector, which tends to pay more, would help improve on Oklahoma’s median income of $43,225.
9. South Carolina 
> Median household income: $42,367
> Population: 4,679,230 (24th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.3% (8th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 18.9% (9th highest)
South Carolina has been hit harder than many states by the recent economic downturn. The state’s sizable tourism industry has slowed as families cut back on vacations. The state’s 10.3% unemployment rate in 2011 was well above the 8.9% national rateSouth Carolina’s poverty rate of 18.9% was the ninth highest in the U.S. and significantly higher than the national rate of 15.9%.Moreover, approximately6.5% of families made less than $10,000 a year, the fifth highest proportion in the country. Meanwhile, only 2.9% of families made more than $200,000 a year, the sixth-lowest rate in the country.
8. New Mexico 
> Median household income: $41,963
> Population: 2,082,224 (15th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.4% (18th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 21.5% (2nd highest)
Last year, 7.2% of families in New Mexico earned less than $10,000, a larger proportion than in any state but Mississippi and Louisiana. In addition, 21.5% of residents lived below the poverty line, well above the national rate of 15.9%. As a result of poverty and limited job benefits, many New Mexicans cannot afford health insurance. Last year, 19.8% of the state’s residents were uninsured. This was significantly higher than the national rate of 15.1% even though the cost of healthcare in New Mexico was slightly below the national average.
7. Louisiana 
> Median household income: $41,734
> Population: 4,574,836 (25th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (16th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 20.4% (3rd highest)
Louisiana is located at the center of the poorest region in the country — the Deep South along the gulf coast. When Hurricane Katrina struck the region in 2005, the southern part of the state was decimated, particularly the city of New Orleans. Six years later, the city was still recovering with almost 17% of families earning less than $10,000 per year, more than triple the national rate of 5.1%. By many measures, conditions are actually getting worse in the state. As of 2011, for the first time since Katrina, more than one in five residents lived below the poverty line, only slightly better than Mississippi and New Mexico. Louisiana’s median income fell by more than the country as a whole, falling more than $2,000 between 2010 and 2011.
6. Tennessee 
> Median household income: $41,693
> Population:  6,403,353 (17th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.2% (16th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 18.3% (12th highest)
In Tennessee some 6.1% of families, or about a third of families in poverty, made less than $10,000 in 2012, a percentage point higher than the national figure. Poverty in many of Tennessee’s largest cities is even worse than the state as a whole. In Memphis, the state’s largest city, 27.2% of the population lived below the poverty line, including 13.1% of households earning less than $10,000 a year. In Chattanooga, 28.7% of the population lived below the poverty line, including 16.3% of households earning less than $10,000 annually. While the state’s median income was lower than most, Tennessee had the second-lowest overall cost of living in and the lowest cost of living for housing among all states in 2011.
5. Alabama 
> Median household income: $41,415
> Population: 4,802,740 (23rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 9% (18th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 19% (7th highest)
In 2011, Alabama’s median income was more than $9,000 below the nation’s median income, while 6.4% of families lived off less than $10,000 a year — higher than in all but five states. For the second year in a row, Alabama’s poverty rate was 19%, remaining more than three percentage points above the national rate. Despite struggling with poverty, only 14.3% of Alabamians did not have health insurance last year — slightly better than the national figure of 15.1%. It is likely that Alabama’s cheap health care–the least expensive in the country for the fourth quarter of 2011–resulted in more insured residents.According to Gallup, since August of 2011 almost 23% of state residents reported not having enough money to buy food at least once.
4. Kentucky 
> Median household income: $41,141
> Population: 4,369,356 (25th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.5% (13th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 19.1% (5th highest)
Kentucky’s unemployment rate of 9.5%, while not as high as states such as South Carolina and Mississippi, was well above the national rate of 8.9%. The employment rate will likely stay high in the near future as mining, a major industry in Kentucky, has declined in the past year due to a drop in natural gas prices. Severe poverty plagues the state, as 6.9% of families earned less than $10,000 in 2011, the fourth lowest of all states. Meanwhile, a mere 3% of Kentucky families earned more than $200,000 a year, the seventh-lowest rate in the country.  Fortunately for those with lower incomes, Kentucky has the fourth-lowest cost of living in the U.S., including the second-lowest cost of living for groceries.
3. Arkansas 
> Median household income: $38,758
> Population: 2,937,979 (19th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 8% (tied-25th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 19.5% (4th highest)
While the national median household income fell to $50,502 in 2011, Arkansas was just one of three states where median income remained below $40,000 for the year. Despite an unemployment rate of 8% in 2011, nearly one percentage point below the national rate, the 19.5% of families lived below the poverty line, one of the nation’s highest rates. Poverty was slightly less of a problem in Little Rock, the state’s largest city, which had a 16.4% poverty rate and a median income of $40,976. Despite having the third-lowest cost of health care nationwide at the end of 2011, 17.1% of residents lived without health insurance last year–well above the national figure of 15.1%.
2. West Virginia 
> Median household income: $38,482
> Population: 1,855,364 (14th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 8% (tied-25th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 18.6% (10th highest)
West Virginia’s median income of $38,482 was well off the median income of $40,093 in 2007. The state’s unemployment rate of 8% was well below the 8.9% nationwide. But, like Kentucky, a softening mining sector in 2012 could weaken West Virginia’s economy. The proportion of West Virginia residents without health insurance grew 4.9%, the third-largest increase in the U.S. Fortunately for cash-strapped residents, although the state’s overall cost of living is in the middle of the pack compared to all other states, the cost of groceries is the third lowest in the country.
1. Mississippi 
> Median household income: $36,919
> Population: 2,978,512 (20th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 10.7% (4th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 22.6% (the highest)
The median income of the poorest state in the country, Mississippi, was just slightly less than 53% of the median income of Maryland, the richest state. Mississippi’s median income–like many states– fell each year between 2008 and 2011, dropping $2,677 during that time. Not only did Mississippi have the highest poverty rate in the country, but 7.8% of Mississippi families made less than $10,000 in 2011, which was also the lowest rate in the country. While unemployment declined in most states between 2010 and 2011, Mississippi’s actually rose 0.2 percentage points, one of only two states to see an increase in unemployment.