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Top 10 Poorest U.S. States by Median Income

Can you name the 10 poorest states in the USA, based on median household income?
For the year 2018, according to the U.S. Census
Quiz by AlfieJMD
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Last updated: September 26, 2019
First submittedApril 7, 2016
Times taken36,754
Rating4.68
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State
44,097
West Virginia
44,717
Mississippi
47,062
Arkansas
47,169
New Mexico
47,905
Louisiana
49,861
Alabama
50,247
Kentucky
51,924
Oklahoma
52,306
South Carolina
52,375
Tennessee
+55
level 83
Sep 12, 2016
Hmm, 50% overlap with the hottest states. Clearly there's a correlation here... low incomes must cause high temperatures.
+18
level 73
Sep 12, 2016
See...I knew Global Warming was a hoax all along. This confirms it.
+11
level 69
Sep 14, 2016
I think you're onto something. I mean, we've all heard that age-old scientific principle: correlation always means causation.
+7
level 56
Dec 18, 2016
Or hot weather makes people lazy :)
+10
level 53
Dec 18, 2016
Same in Europe....poor southern Europe rich northern Europe....
+12
level 50
Dec 19, 2016
A 60% overlap with the secessionist states is probably a better place to start your inquiry....
+23
level ∞
Jan 2, 2017
Honestly, it probably is the weather. A better climate for growing cash crops led to an economy based on slavery and agriculture, which isn't nearly as productive as one based on industry. 200 years later, the effects are still felt - although the differences in income are much less stark than they would have been 50 years ago.
+4
level 55
Apr 9, 2018
The scientific literature is still divided on this issue. Climate- or geography-based explanations typically ignore the role of institutions (like property rights regimes, market institutions, and so on), although the two are ultimately difficult to separate from each other. This paper by Sokoloff and Engerman provides a nuanced overview of the debate: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.14.3.217
+3
level 46
Apr 29, 2018
One should also consider that due to the South's geography, there is not many powerful rivers (within the interior) that can be used to power the factories or encourage maritime trade with the Caribbean, thus the South could have never grow urban centers like the North. Along with this, those cash crops effectively made the South rely on an agrarian economy in which the only sort of industrialization reaching it would be tools to increase farming output. Even after the Civil War during Reconstruction, although many textile factories did move down South, the region still lagged behind the more robust North, as the newly industrialized economy has to compete with an established dominating competitor. These are only a few factors in which why those states in the South lag behind in those income, as a lack of industrialization/reliance on an agrarian economy can not be a dominate force in an economy based on service/industry, in which the South is still playing catch-up to this day.
+3
level 61
May 3, 2018
Literally the poorest of these is a state named after a river. Not a compelling argument.
+2
level 73
Jul 17, 2018
@supermusic Perhaps you didn't read the argument. One giant river doesn't propel textile mills like the smaller rivers found everywhere in New England and the Northeast.
+1
level 71
Dec 30, 2018
Pretty common phenomenon across world history...Economies and civilisations were more "developed" across temperate zones pre the industrial revolution and the age of European colonisation
+2
level 57
Jan 16, 2017
or vice versa
+1
level 43
Jan 12, 2018
NOOOOOO was typing in west virginia!!!
+8
level 43
Apr 30, 2018
90% overlap with Republican states. Since the GOAL of the Republican party is SQUALOR and a desperate, over the barrel workforce that can't make living WAGE DEMANDS. CHEAP LABOR = corporate PROFIT.
+4
level 73
Jul 17, 2018
And you're talking about mainly the white voters, who make up a slim majority in many of these states. The South is a richer portrait than your assumption.
+6
level 69
Sep 12, 2016
No money but great at college football! Roll Tide!
+7
level 70
Sep 14, 2016
It probably goes back to the early days of the nation - industrial north vs agricultural south - and add the limited crops of the south, labor-intensive (rice, cotton, tobacco).
+9
level 47
Dec 18, 2016
Of course. Montana is widely known as the industrial capital of America, with some of the greatest technology available to mankind!
+12
level 41
Oct 21, 2016
Most of these are Southern Republican States. No wonder.
+22
level 80
Nov 21, 2016
Wow, took only 7 comments for someone to make a snarky "I'm smarter/better than you" comment! Congrats mariolebrone!
+7
level 30
Dec 18, 2016
At least he shows what Democrats really think of the poor. In liberal major cities around the country, crime is rampant and the poor live in horrible conditions. Yet the suburbs are usually Republican and prosperous.
+22
level 59
Dec 18, 2016
Poor Americans, they have to live in a society where you can't even take a quiz without a political conflict. Such a deeply divided nation!
+10
level 61
Dec 18, 2016
I didn't see him making a comment about the poor in general. He made a comment about the overlap between red states and poverty. That is not a commentary on poverty and poor people in general.
+6
level 71
Jan 25, 2017
Oh yay, and Roxy pointed out that whole "those poor inner city blacks!" Republican pronouncement. Also, I'm not sure what suburbs she lives in, unless it's the southern cities'.
+3
level 21
Nov 4, 2017
I tend to enjoy reading the comments more than taking the actual quiz these days!
+2
level 55
Dec 30, 2018
United States? More like Divided States. We should call it the DS.
+1
level 62
Dec 18, 2016
Do you really have to bring that up in a quiz not even related to the quiz topic? The quiz is "Poorest US States" yet we have a comment of how most of these states are Republican.
+9
level 77
Dec 18, 2016
of course it's related. Not perfectly, of course. It's complicated. But there is a relation.
+5
level 76
Dec 18, 2016
It's interesting that most of these states were Democrat when I was young. (1960s) And they were also the poorest then, too. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that there was less manufacturing in those states and therefore less income. Agricultural jobs don't pay as well. Manufacturing was beginning to move to the south where they were right-to-work states with fewer labor unions, but then NAFTA changed that, too.
+10
level 77
Dec 19, 2016
The Republican and Democratic parties as we know them today didn't really take shape until the late 60s/70s anyway- that's why looking back farther than that you see some things that by what we know today seems counter-intuitive.
+1
level 67
Dec 18, 2016
Inflation is much higher in some Northern and Western states, such as New York and California, so their median household income is much higher, yet the cost of goods around them is also much higher.
+2
level 19
Dec 24, 2016
More traditional, more conservative...I wonder why!
+1
level 53
May 2, 2018
They are more poor because of various factors such as location and population. Alaska, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming are very republican states, but they don't have low median household incomes. Also, blue states tend to have already had major industrialization for most of our nation's history, which helps with the wealth of those areas.
+4
level 77
Dec 18, 2016
One of the few quizzes on the site where it would make sense to use purchasing power parity (many of these states are also among the cheapest US states), but it doesn't.
+2
level 43
Dec 19, 2016
This is a good point. 40K goes a lot further in these states than California or New York...
+2
level 19
Dec 24, 2016
Really agree.
+2
level 38
Jan 2, 2017
Easy with all that logic. We don't want any of that stuff here on the interwebs buddy.
+1
level 58
Oct 29, 2018
Agreed jdmorgan.
+4
level 49
Jan 29, 2018
I made a quiz with purchasing power taken into account: "Top 10 Poorest US States by PPP"
+1
level 77
Mar 1, 2019
wow. Very different results!
+1
level 49
Jan 29, 2018
I made a quiz taking purchasing power into account: "Top 10 Poorest US States by PPP"
+1
level 67
Dec 18, 2016
It does look obvious to an outsider that nearly all the once 'Confederate States' are on the poorest list. The question is 'Why?'. There must be a reason and as I am not from USA I wonder what it is.
+4
level 66
Dec 18, 2016
The north and coasts have more inflated housing and goods. Somebody making $70k in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will have an equivalent standard of living as somebody making $108k in San Diego, California.
+1
level 77
Mar 1, 2019
Even using PPP Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia and New Mexico rank among the poorest US states, but while what Pork said is still essentially true it doesn't come close to explaining why these states are poor. It's complicated. A big part of it is that the warmer southern states were still largely agrarian, with economies driven by plantation farming, when the northern states were becoming industrialized. Part of it is that the South was left in ruins after the American Civil War, and while the North attempted to rebuild the South through Reconstruction, Southern politicians were more interested in maintaining racial inequities in their states than accepting help rebuilding and so saw Reconstruction as foreign meddling in their affairs. These two factors alone gave the Northern states a huge head start going forward, and can account for most of the discrepancy that exists today. But you could also point to other factors.
+1
level 77
Mar 1, 2019
For instance the fact that air conditioning and weather proofing weren't invented until the 20th century and before that living in a large city in the American South meant disease and unpleasantness- though New Orleans thrived as a port of trade there were never any Southern cities to rival New York, Boston, Chicago, or Philadelphia. Finally, the Republican party has a death grip on most of these states and has ever since the 1960s when Republican leaders decided to oppose Civil Rights legislation in order to win the favor of Southern racists. It was a very sad turn of events for the party of Lincoln, but it worked, and all of these once solidly-blue states became solidly red. And Republican policies are simply bad for the economy. But I'd say this is the least important factor of all those things I already mentioned. And Pork's point shouldn't be discounted, either. If you look at cost of living then there are more poor people in New York and Hawaii than in any Southern state.
+1
level 77
Mar 1, 2019
Final note about West Virginia: it's a coal miner's state. And its industry is dying. This is why it's the only state in the USA where both it's population and GDP have been shrinking. This is a trend that goes back decades and has little to do with Slavery, the Civil War, politics or anything else.
+1
level ∞
Aug 15, 2019
If the question is "why", here is my best guess. The southern states were less industrialized because of their reliance on agriculture and slave labor. This caused them to be much poorer than the northern states, and losing the Civil War made the disparity much worse. Fast forward 150 years and these states are still the poorest. But, if I had to guess, I would say that the gap has narrowed significantly. It would be interesting to see! Maybe I will look for some historical data.
+3
level 73
Dec 18, 2016
Mississippi and West Virginia are also the two states with the highest obesity rate in the nation if I'm not mistaken. My region in France sits also on top on both stats, and I think there is a correlation between those two statistics in every "developped" country in the world. Precarity tends to bring a lot of ailments with it.
+1
level 58
Dec 18, 2016
yep link re obesity and low educational attainment is there
+2
level 71
Jan 25, 2017
Unfortunately here (and I don't know how it is in France), the cheapest food to buy, calorie-for-calorie, is at fast food restaurants like McDonald's. Combine that with working possibly multiple jobs with no time to cook, and you have people who need to get the most out of their food money, which sadly means crap that will make you both fat and sick. :-(
+2
level ∞
Mar 1, 2019
McDonald's is cheap but definitely more expensive than cooking. Also, in the United States, hours worked per worker has decreased by a lot, and on average, poor people work far fewer hours than the rich. There's definitely something else going on. Food deserts is one theory, but it turns out they don't really matter. Which makes sense as there wouldn't be food deserts in the first place if people wanted to buy healthy food. So, I'd have to guess that cultural transmission of poor eating habits explains it. Which sucks because that's the hardest thing to fix.
+1
level 39
Dec 18, 2016
Most of these are also in the most religious,obese & conservative categories not surprised.
+2
level 61
Apr 29, 2018
These are all problems that are solved by education. And these states care much more about football than education.
+1
level 53
May 4, 2018
That's ok though, because in America, we don't care about education anyways.
+1
level 73
Jul 17, 2018
Opposite stereotyped, bigoted comments could be said about Trenton, Hartford, Oakland, Newport News in "rich" states.
+1
level 33
Dec 18, 2016
How did I spell West Virginia wrong????
+1
level 73
Dec 30, 2018
Wet Virgin perhaps?
+1
level 65
Dec 19, 2016
Accept more spellings of Tennessee?
+3
level 43
Dec 19, 2016
I suggest 10IC
+1
level 46
Dec 19, 2016
Mississippi and New Mexico representin'
+1
level 19
Dec 24, 2016
Why not use something else, like searching for 'poorest states in us' on Google?
+1
level ∞
Dec 26, 2016
Google is not an accurate source as their holocaust denial scandal has illustrated so well.
+1
level 19
Dec 26, 2016
In searching around at '10 poorest states in America in 2016' from Benefits Pro, 'America’s Richest (And Poorest) States' from the Huffington Post, 'These Are America’s Richest & Poorest States' from VOA News, state fact-boxes from last years' National Geographic Atlas of the United States, the 'List of U.S. states by income' at Wikipedia, and 'The 10 Poorest States In America' from Business Insider, it seems that North Carolina is a more common occurrence than Montana, although there are well over two dozen others in the top ten as well (thus, more than half of the states). The situation has played out as though the state has fallen in those rankings while jumping up at least five spots, so shouldn't this data be updated for the newest info from 2015 at the original source that the creator provided in September, and to this year's, when it comes out in a few weeks?
+1
level ∞
Dec 26, 2016
I got the data directly from the census.
+1
level 14
Jul 15, 2017
Thank God Idaho isn't on here. After all, us Idahoans have a huga amount of potato and sugar beet farmers
+1
level 62
Jan 24, 2018
Mmmm, potatoes...
+1
level 6
Feb 2, 2018
I don't like potatoes
+1
level 69
Apr 30, 2018
Well, if it were measured in potatoes per capita...
+1
level 59
Aug 28, 2017
Why am I not surprised 9 out of ten of the poorest states consistently vote Republican?
+1
level 6
Feb 2, 2018
Aww..... I live in alabama. :(
+1
level 66
May 2, 2018
At least there's always Mississippi
+1
level 8
Apr 29, 2018
had 1:26 left
+1
level 61
May 3, 2018
Didn't want to pick which political comment thread to put this in, but the correlation between being poor and being Republican is that both reflect an unwillingess to change and modernize. It might be better to characterize these states as conservative rather than Republican-- there are more moderate Republican states that don't have the same issues. What makes these states poor and conservative is that they sit around wanting the world to go back to a concept of yesterday, rather than acknowledging they need to change-- change their economies, change their social viewpoints, change their lifestyles.
+1
level 38
Jun 14, 2018
Religion is truly "the opiate of the masses". Note that the poorest states have by far the most church goers, gamely suffering through this earthly hell while eagerly awaiting their reward in heaven. And yes, while $70,000 a year may go a lot further in Mississippi than it does in New York or California, how many Mississippians actually earn $70,000/yr?
+1
level 73
Jul 17, 2018
3 types of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics. These statistics, like all statistics, can be infinitely refined with "but"... The cost of a home in a "rich" state means your average income is keeping you living in a poverty box. Top 10 "rich" states Maryland and Virginia, full of suburbs leeching from the taxpayers, lie next to the penned in ghetto that supports them. Ever been to Bridgeport or Trenton? They make any part of Mississippi or South Carolina look like a better place to live and raise kids.
+1
level 53
Mar 1, 2019
Proof that nothing means anything. Everything is fake.
+1
level 45
Nov 16, 2018
I got almost every state, except for New Mexico
+1
level 45
Dec 30, 2018
Sad that my home state is here.
+1
level 58
Mar 1, 2019
Poorest U.S. states, but still very wealthy by world standards.
+2
level 77
Mar 1, 2019
True. If you look at GDP per capita (in PPP), for example, the UK is poorer than the poorest US state. If you look at median household income not adjusted for PPP, Mississippi's $42k is pretty high. I can't find data for countries by median income (nominal). Adjusted for PPP and looking at median household incomes, New York actually becomes the USA's poorest states, but its $43,200 household income (PPP) makes it wealthier than Canada, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Finland, Japan, Germany, Singapore, Qatar, the UK, etc.
+1
level 58
Aug 15, 2019
Yep. But actually the UK has a GDP (PPP) per capita of $45,705 (2018), or $43,013 in 2016, which is higher than Mississippi (poorest U.S. state by GDP (PPP) per capita), but lower than the 2nd poorest (West Virginia).
+1
level 77
Aug 15, 2019
movin' on up
+1
level ∞
Sep 26, 2019
@JackintheBox, this is median household income not GDP by capita. In terms of GDP, every single state in the U.S. is wealthier than the United Kingdom.
+1
level 54
May 13, 2019
Lots of comments on "dumb poor republican states". However, many of the poorest and least industrious people in our states vote democrat. Most republicans are somewhat successful or own businesses here. I would wager that the least industrious are blue voters, and there are huge numbers of minorities here that vote blue. For instance, while blacks account for 13% of the US population, they are more like 50% of the population in many areas of the South. My city in NC is mostly black in town, and most of the schools are very diverse with migrant children, blacks, and whites. This also goes back to the agriculture and slavery economy that is now wiped out in the South, which leaves tons of people that no longer work or produce stuff, and many don't know how to. Keep in mind, I am white and my wife is black, but I wanted to point these facts out.
+1
level ∞
Sep 26, 2019
People love to blame the other tribe for all their problems.
+2
level 60
Aug 2, 2019
This quiz was easy, I just started guessing red states. Hopefully they realize they deserve better, and they stop waiting for “trickle down” effect to actually benefit them and their hard work.
+1
level 54
Aug 23, 2019
Trickle down isn't going to do great things in itself, but I also don't care to attack wealthy people or business owners and try to have the government steal more of their money to run inept schemes and buy dumb voters. Lower taxes for all classes would be best, and we are seeing a decent economy from recent changes, lowering our corporate tax rate(which was stupidly high), and a small tax cut for middle class folks(though not enough). The left's only answer is to call everyone racist and ignorant, while promising to buy everything you ever coveted with other people's labor and money and promise the moon. Many people in red states are actually blue voters, minorities, etc. who actually require programs and reflect low scores and make the South or red states look impoverished. Nearly every republican or libertarian I know in this red state has a productive job or business. It is mostly blue voters here who have burger shop jobs or have babies with no husbands and require programs.
+1
level 51
Aug 15, 2019
Ah, the key factor is education all the way to College and Advanced Degrees. There is a high correlation between education, poverty and political inclination. See this https://moragueno.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/the-2016-us-presidential-elections-in-3-charts/
+1
level 32
Aug 17, 2019
All we have to do is elect the Democratic Socialist Party of America and we can type in any state because they will all be the same. . . . .
+1
level 77
Sep 16, 2019
What a vivid picture of the nightmare of equality you paint.
+1
level 47
Aug 17, 2019
I had 1 second to go and all I had to do was type south carolina and i typed..... south caroline.