13 Poorest States in America

By PropertyClub Team
May 6th 2024
In the United States, roughly 11.5% of the population lives in poverty. This number translates to 37.9 million Americans struggling to afford basic necessities. While poverty exists throughout the country, some states have significantly higher rates than others. Read on to discover the 13 poorest states in America.

hash-markKey Findings

  • The poorest state in the US is Mississippi, which has a poverty rate of 19.1%, which is 66% higher than the national average. Mississippi also has the lowest median household income of any state.
  • The second poorest state in America is Louisiana, which suffers from a poverty rate of 18.6%. Louisiana also struggles with poorly rated educational and health systems.
  • West Virginia is the third poorest state in the US. It has a poverty rate of 17.9% and a median household income of $55,217.
  • All of the 13 poorest US states are located in the South and Southwest. On average, the poverty rate in these regions is 39% higher than the national average.

hash-mark13 Poorest States in America

  1. Mississippi
  2. Louisiana
  3. West Virginia
  4. New Mexico
  5. Arkansas
  6. Kentucky
  7. Alabama
  8. Oklahoma
  9. South Carolina
  10. Texas
  11. Tennessee
  12. North Carolina
  13. Georgia

hash-mark1. Mississippi

Mississippi, the poorest state in the US, derives its name from the Mississippi River, defining its western boundary. The poverty rate reaches 19.1%, and the state also has the lowest per-capita income in the country. The state has a population of 2.94 million and the economy relies on agriculture and manufacturing. Mississippi is also home to the poorest county in the US, Issaquena County. 

The median household income in Mississippi is only $52,985, far lower than the national average of $75,149. 

hash-mark2. Louisiana

Louisiana, nestled where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico, is home to about 4.6 million people. Despite its vibrant culture and rich history, it faces challenges. With a poverty rate of 18.6% and a median household income of $57,852, many struggle to make ends meet. Louisiana often ranks poorly in health and education, being the third least educated state in 2023. In 2018, it was labeled the unhealthiest state, plagued by drug-related deaths.

hash-mark3. West Virginia

West Virginia, a state in the Southern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, is known for its mountains and rolling hills. It's another poor US state, with a poverty rate of 17.9%, and a median household income of $55,217. Sadly, over the last thirty years, its income growth has been only 13%, much lower than the national average. Despite its natural beauty, West Virginia faces demographic challenges, as it's the only state where death rates exceed birth rates. With a population of 1.775 million, the state struggles with economic disparities amidst its scenic landscapes.. 

hash-mark4. New Mexico

New Mexico, the fourth poorest state in the U.S., is home to 2.113 million people. With a poverty rate of 17.6%, the median household income stands at $58,722. Interestingly, one-third of the state's land is federally owned. Moreover, New Mexico boasts a notable U.S. military presence. However, concerning statistics reveal that in 2017, nearly 30% of New Mexico's children lived in poverty, a staggering 40% higher than the national average. In addition to its economic hardships, New Mexico also suffers from crime problems, as it is the second most dangerous state in the US.  

hash-mark5. Arkansas

Arkansas, nestled in the heart of the Southern United States, is a landlocked state brimming with natural beauty. With a population of over 3 million people, it ranks as the 34th most populous state, covering an area that makes it the 29th largest. Despite its picturesque landscapes, Arkansas faces economic challenges, with a poverty rate of 16.8%. However, the median household income stands at $56,335. Nature enthusiasts flock to Arkansas for its stunning Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, along with its vast waterways boasting over 600,000 acres of lakes and nearly 10,000 miles of rivers, providing endless opportunities for outdoor adventures.

hash-mark6. Kentucky

Kentucky, also known as the "Bluegrass State," sits in the Southeastern region of the United States. It's home to about 4.512 million people. The state carries the nickname because of its lush Kentucky bluegrass. Despite its natural beauty, Kentucky faces challenges; its poverty rate stands at 16.5%, with a median household income of $60,183. As of March 2024, the state's unemployment rate is 4.5%. Kentucky holds an important place in automotive manufacturing, ranking 4th in the nation for the assembly of automobiles and trucks.

hash-mark7. Alabama

Alabama, the thirtieth-largest state in the United States covering 52,419 square miles, is home to a population of 5.074 million. Despite its vast land, the state faces economic challenges, with a poverty rate of 16.2% and a median household income of $59,609. One of the reasons behind its economic difficulties is its heavy dependence on agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries, which have suffered disruptions. According to HUD's 2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, Alabama counted approximately 3,752 homeless individuals, highlighting further social and economic concerns.

hash-mark8. Oklahoma

Oklahoma, another poorest state in the US, got its name from the Choctaw words meaning 'red people'. It's a big player in natural gas, oil, and farming, with a population of around 4.02 million people. About 15.7% of its people live in poverty, while the typical household brings in about $61,364 each year. In 2020, the state faced an unemployment rate of 5.3%.

hash-mark9. South Carolina

Located in the coastal Southeastern region of the United States, South Carolina bears the name of King Charles I of England. Despite its historical roots, the state grapples with economic challenges, with a poverty rate of 14% and a significant portion of its workforce earning low wages, comprising 28.20% of available jobs. However, South Carolina boasts a relatively low unemployment rate of 3%. In terms of income, the median household earns $63,623 annually. With a population of 5.283 million, South Carolina's diverse landscape and historical significance continue to attract residents and visitors alike.

hash-mark10. Texas

Texas, known as the Lone Star State, is the biggest state in the South Central USA, home to about 30.03 million people. With a poverty rate of 14% and a median household income of $73,035, it's a place of contrasts. Its economy is powered by four main industries: cattle and bison, cotton, timber, and oil, making it a key player in the nation's economic landscape. Moreover, it boasts the highest number of Fortune 500 company headquarters in the country, reflecting its significance in business and industry.

hash-mark11. Tennessee

Tennessee, with a population of 7.051 million, is known as "The Volunteer State" because people there have always been ready to serve in the military. About 13.3% of its residents live in poverty, but the median household income is $64,035. The state's economy is strong, with major industries like healthcare, music, finance, automotive, chemicals, electronics, and tourism. One of its prized attractions is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, found in the eastern part, which is the most visited national park in the country.

hash-mark12. North Carolina

North Carolina, the penultimate state on our list of poorest US states, has a poverty rate of 12.8% and a median household income of $66,186. With a population of 10.7 million, it's home to the largest research park in the United States, Research Triangle Park. In 2022, 1.3 million North Carolinians, including 388,000 children, were below the poverty level. Despite economic challenges, North Carolina remains a leading U.S. state in the production of flue-cured tobacco and sweet potatoes.

hash-mark13. Georgia

Georgia, with a population of 10.91 million, wraps up our list of poorest US states with a poverty rate of 12.7% and a median household income of $71,355. Atlanta, its capital, boasts the world's busiest airport. Surprisingly, despite its economic challenges, Georgia has been ranked the top state in the nation to do business. Moreover, a 2024 study listed Georgia in the top 20 of states for an affordable cost of living. Notably, the state sales tax in Georgia stands at 4%, contributing to its economic dynamics.