Poverty is, unfortunately, a reality across many states in America and the poverty rates can vary wildly between each state. If you are thinking of relocating to another state, poverty rates, unemployment rates and median incomes are all important financial factors to take into account.
We have ranked the 15 poorest states in America, using the latest data from Census reports. In the U.S, the average poverty rate across the states is 10.5%. However, these 15 states all have higher poverty rates than this average, with some close to double the average rate.
Neighboring western Mississippi is the second-poorest state in the U.S, Louisiana. With a population of over 4.6 million, the proportion of those living in poverty in Louisiana is 19%. While this rate has decreased slightly in the past nine years, this drop has been inconsistent. The poverty rate rose slightly between 2018 and 2019 from 18.6% to 19% but it’s still lower than the 2011 rate of 20.4%.
Named the Mountain State for its natural beauty, West Virginia has a population of just 1,792,147, which has fallen by 3.3% in the past 10 years. Despite its relatively small and falling population, the state has a high poverty rate of 16%. While this is higher than the national average, it’s also the lowest rate of poverty West Virginia has seen in almost 20 years.
Alabama is a southern state known for its music, hot weather and Civil Rights history. Alabama’s current estimated poverty rate of 15.5% is the lowest recorded since 2000 but still sits above the national average. The state has a total population of 4.9 million people, a rate that has grown by 2.6% in the last 10 years. Alabama also has a high rate of children in poverty at 23.8%, which puts the state as 45th in the country in this category.
Faring slightly better than its neighbor to the south is North Carolina, a state with a poverty rate of 13.6% as of 2019. Like South Carolina, this state has also seen a large drop in poverty rates since 2012, when the rate was 18%. Despite having slightly lower poverty rates than South Carolina, North Carolina has over double the population, totaling 10.4 million residents overall, meaning its poor population is significantly larger.
The southeastern state of Georgia is known for its peaches, and as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Georgia’s population of 10.6 million people makes it one of the most populated states on this list. Of this number, there is a poverty rate of 13.3% which has consistently decreased from its latest high of 19.1% in 2011.
While all of these states have higher rates of poverty than the average across the United States, they have all shown an improvement in recent years. Not all of the states have had consistent dips in poverty levels, but each one has reduced its poverty rate since the peak of the Great Recession in 2012. These are encouraging trends, but it’s still helpful to be aware of the role poverty plays in any state where you might live.
The poorest state on this list is Mississippi, which has seen a significant drop in poverty levels despite remaining at a high rate. On the other end of the scale, we found that the top states with the lowest poverty rates were New Hampshire (7.3%), Utah (8.9%) and Minnesota (9%).
To determine the poorest states in America, we looked closely at the latest U.S. Census data to rank each state by its poverty rate. We also looked at Statista’s historical poverty rates from the year 2000 onward to see whether the poverty rates were improving. All states on our list have a poverty rate above the U.S. average.