The United States is supposed to be the land of milk and honey, the place of opportunities, where everyone can start anew with an equal chance of success. Of course, words have a better ring to reality. While the country has the most powerful economy in the world, it does have its own share of poor people.
But which areas of the country are the poorest? The following is a list of the poorest states in the USA in terms of poverty rate. The poverty rate in the entire country is 12.6 percent and all 10 listed below have numbers below that figure.
11 South Carolina – 15 percent
Up to 626,000 people live in poverty in South Carolina. Average income in the state is $42,367, which is the lowest level since 2007. It is the 24th most populous state in the country. Its unemployment rate peaked in 2009 when it reached 12 percent, though the latest figures has seen it gone down to only 8.9 percent as of March 2012. The labor force in the state has become attractive to investors and businessmen because of its lower wages and the absence of responsibility to maintain healthcare benefits to temporary employees. Though while it helps with the employment rate, it does not really help people get out of the poverty line.
10 Arizona – 15.2 percent
Over 917,000 people live below the poverty line in Arizona. Average income in the state is $46,709, the lowest since 2007. It is the 15th most populous state in the country. The unemployment rate stands at 9.6 percent. The largest employer of people is the state government, while Wal-Mart is the largest private employer. Up to 70 percent of the state’s land is owned by the federal government, which then leases a portion of the public domain to miners and ranchers.
9 West Virginia – 15.4 percent
West Virginia has more than 276,000 people living below the poverty line. Average income in the state is only $38,482, though this figure is already an improvement from the previous year’s number of $37,435. West Virginia is the 38th most populous state in the country. The unemployment rate in the state stood at 8.2 percent as of October 2011. The cost of doing business here is 13 percent below the average in the rest of the country. The problem, however, is that the proportion of its adult population with a bachelor’s degree is only 17.3 percent, the lowest level in the entire US.
8 Oklahoma – 15.6 percent
There are around 543,000 people living below the poverty line in Oklahoma. The average income of its people is $43,225, an improvement from the previous year’s average of $42,492. It is the 28th most populous state in the country. It is considered as one of the friendliest states to businessmen and investors, as it owns the seventh lowest tax burden in the country. Unemployment rate is only at 5.6 percent, thought the economy was badly damaged by the collapse of the energy industry in 2000.
7 Arkansas – 15.9 percent
Arkansas has 509,000 people living in poverty. It is the 32nd most populous state in the country. State unemployment rate stood at only seven percent as of November 2012. It is the base of the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart. Still, the average income in the state is only $38,758, one of the lowest in the nation. It is slightly up, however, from the previous year’s number of $37,823.
5 Texas – 16.2 percent
Everything is bigger in Texas, they say. This includes the number of poor people at 3.7 million, the highest number after California. The average income in Texas is $49,392, which is slightly better than the previous year’s $48,259. Texas is the second most populous state in the country distributed in an area that is the largest in the mainland. Unemployment rate is at 6.5 percent. The state also has 346,000 millionaires, the second most in the nation. It has one of the lowest tax burdens and has no state income tax. It has, however, 1.2 million illegal aliens that make up six percent of its population. It also has one of the fastest growth in illegal immigration rate.
4 Alabama – 16.7 percent
There are around 750,000 people living in poverty in Alabama. Average income in the state is at $41,415, slightly up than the previous year’s number of $40,489. It is the 23rd most populous state in the country. State unemployment rate is at 7.8 percent. The economy used to be largely agricultural in nature but it now only accounts for one percent of the state’s gross domestic product because of sell-offs to developers and large conglomerates.
3 New Mexico – 17.9 percent
New Mexico has over 347,000 people living below the poverty line. Average income in the state stands at $41,963, which is the lowest since 2007. It is the 36th most populous state in the country. The latest available unemployment numbers show a rate of 7.2 percent, an improvement from the eight percent obtained in 2010 during the recession. A major driver of the economy is the federal government as it spends $2.03 for every tax dollar paid by the state.
2 Louisiana – 18.3 percent
Louisiana has over 748,000 people living in poverty. Average income in the state is at $41,734, slightly up from the previous year’s $41,725. It is the 25th most populous state in the country. The unemployment rate is at 7.4 percent. The oil industry provides 17 percent of all jobs in the state. Louisiana has been victimized by disasters, both natural and man-made, however. It bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina and was the site of the Deppwater Horizon oil spill.
1 Mississippi – 20.1 percent
There are 571,000 people living in poverty in Mississippi. Average income is at $36,919, slightly up from the previous year’s $36,646. It is the 31st most populous state in the country. Unemployment rate is at 10.9 percent. It was officially reported by the Census Bureau to be the poorest state in the country. The state’s small towns are struggling and people have been leaving to search for jobs elsewhere.
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