Lowest-earning county in every state

March 17, 2021
Richard Cavalleri // Shutterstock

Lowest-earning county in every state

March 2021 marks one year of the COVID-19 pandemic upending our lives and the economy here in the United States. Pre-pandemic, Americans were doing well financially, with major markers like unemployment, reaching 50-year lows. Post-pandemic, however, things are looking wildly different. During the second quarter of the 2020 fiscal year, our nation’s real GDP fell by a whopping 31.4%, a number that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression. As the economy begins its comeback, things are still a far cry from the way they were in 2019.

One marker that has sped far past its 2019 position is that of income inequality in the United States. Low-wage industries have been decimated by the pandemic, leaving millions without work or in positions they are overqualified for. Meanwhile, nearly one in five households across the United States earn less than $25,000 a year (19.6%), while 6.3% have an annual income that falls below $10,000.

Where you live can make a big impact on your financial situation. To find out where Americans are struggling the most across the country, Stacker compiled a list of the lowest-earning county in every state, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates (released in December 2020). The list only considered counties with a minimum of 1,000 households and ranked them by their median household incomes. The counties are listed in alphabetical order based on their state’s name.

Keep reading to learn which county in every state has the lowest household income and see how your area compares with the rest.

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Magnolia677 // Wikimedia Commons

Alabama: Perry County

- Median household income: $23,447
- Total number of households: 3,070
- Households making less than $10,000: 19.5%
- Households making less than $25,000: 54.0%

Located in west-central Alabama, Perry County has seen employment levels drop and wages decrease over the past several years. With a population of just under 10,000 people, the largest industries in the area are educational services and manufacturing. A stagnating wage in the manufacturing sector may be behind the low average income in Perry County.

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CTLiotta // Wikimedia Commons

Alaska: Kusilvak Census Area

- Median household income: $36,754
- Total number of households: 1,724
- Households making less than $10,000: 10.1%
- Households making less than $25,000: 33.0%

There are just 79 employer establishments in Alaska’s Kusilvak Census Area. Most workers from this area are teachers’ assistantsone of the lowest-paid occupations in the country.

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John Phelan // Wikimedia Commons

Arizona: Apache County

- Median household income: $32,508
- Total number of households: 20,867
- Households making less than $10,000: 21.6%
- Households making less than $25,000: 41.7%

Northern Arizona, where Apache County is located, is experiencing a major decline in coal-related industries, with many plants downsizing or shutting down completely in recent years. Losing high-wage jobs in the coal industry is predicted to impact other areas, including tourism, retail, and hospitality, which could make it even harder for Apache County residents to boost their incomes.

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Thomas R Machnitzki // Wikimedia Commons

Arkansas: Phillips County

- Median household income: $29,320
- Total number of households: 7,485
- Households making less than $10,000: 17.0%
- Households making less than $25,000: 44.3%

Once a thriving agricultural and port area, Phillips County has largely been left behind by economic modernization. The ongoing Delta Bridge Project seeks to make up for lost income through community and economic development projects.

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Zack Frank // Shutterstock

California: Trinity County

- Median household income: $40,846
- Total number of households: 5,939
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.9%
- Households making less than $25,000: 32.0%

Trinity County has fewer than 5,000 workers. The majority of them are employed in public administration, health care, and social assistance, or the accommodation and food services industries.

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Kristi Blokhin // Shutterstock

Colorado: Bent County

- Median household income: $30,900
- Total number of households: 1,767
- Households making less than $10,000: 8.8%
- Households making less than $25,000: 38.6%

In Bent County, the local economy is largely dependent on agriculture, an industry with diminishing profits. In an effort to help balance out these losses, the county's Development Foundation works to keep and grow small businesses in the area.

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JJBers // Flickr

Connecticut: Windham County

- Median household income: $66,550
- Total number of households: 44,953
- Households making less than $10,000: 5.4%
- Households making less than $25,000: 17.4%

Manufacturing is the second-largest industry in Windham County. The sector is expected to continue to grow, with high demand for workers in the aerospace and submarine industries.

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Craig Fildes // Flickr

Delaware: Kent County

- Median household income: $60,910
- Total number of households: 65,796
- Households making less than $10,000: 5.1%
- Households making less than $25,000: 18.3%

The vast majority of small business owners in Kent County oppose a minimum wage increase, seeing a stagnant wage as attractive to businesses who might come to Kent County to set up shop. Within the county, 12.7% of the population is living in poverty.

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Ebyabe // Wikimedia Commons

Florida: DeSoto County

- Median household income: $35,438
- Total number of households: 12,072
- Households making less than $10,000: 7.2%
- Households making less than $25,000: 33.7%

A large percentage of the DeSoto County, Florida workforce are migrant farmer families, who work year-round in the fields harvesting produce for relatively low wages. In fact, the most common occupations in the county are farming, fishing, and forestry jobs, which are among the lowest-paid.

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Lindasj22 // Shutterstock

Georgia: Clay County

- Median household income: $22,325
- Total number of households: 1,242
- Households making less than $10,000: 16.6%
- Households making less than $25,000: 52.3%

Solar innovation may help stimulate the economy in Clay County over the next decade; U.S. solar company Silicon Ranch in 2018 made an $89 million investment in two solar projects in Bluffton. The development will inject some much-needed revenue into the county’s schools and development authority.

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dirkr // Shutterstock

Hawaii: Hawaii County

- Median household income: $62,409
- Total number of households: 69,453
- Households making less than $10,000: 7.7%
- Households making less than $25,000: 21.6%

As is the case throughout the state, tourism drives the economy in Hawaii County. Most residents working in accommodation and food services or retail.

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chenjack // Flickr

Idaho: Madison County

- Median household income: $39,160
- Total number of households: 11,016
- Households making less than $10,000: 11.9%
- Households making less than $25,000: 36.0%

With an educated workforce and relatively low costs, Rexburg, Madison County’s largest city, is becoming an attractive place for companies. Many out-of-state businesses have opened plants and offices in the area, creating new jobs and boosting the economy.

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J. Stephen Conn // Flickr

Illinois: Pulaski County

- Median household income: $34,640
- Total number of households: 2,095
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.5%
- Households making less than $25,000: 38.0%

When the Tamms Supermax Prison closed in 2013, Southern Illinois (which includes Pulaski County) lost around 325 jobs and saw businesses that served prison staff shut down. The state in 2019 created a new task force to explore ways to repurpose the former correctional center and create new employment opportunities in the area.

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Chris Flook // Wikimedia Commons

Indiana: Crawford County

- Median household income: $41,662
- Total number of households: 3,835
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.3%
- Households making less than $25,000: 29.0%

Crawford County is the lowest-earning county in the state of Indiana, falling significantly short of the state's median household income. The discrepancy is likely due to the high concentration of low-paying manufacturing and construction jobs in the area.

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Jimmy Emerson // Flickr

Iowa: Appanoose County

- Median household income: $40,167
- Total number of households: 5,353
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.6%
- Households making less than $25,000: 29.7%

Employment in Appanoose County has fallen in recent years. Some of the most common industries here include manufacturing, retail trade, health care, and social assistance, and educational services.

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Wayne Greer // Shutterstock

Kansas: Elk County

- Median household income: $38,750
- Total number of households: 1,128
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.6%
- Households making less than $25,000: 34.5%

Over the last several decades, Elk County has seen a significant decline in population. As members of the community have moved out, they seem to have taken jobs with them. The area has retained some of its highest-paying industries, like mining and quarrying, but its most common areas of employment are things like health care and social services, which pay significantly less.

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Jimmy Emerson // Flickr

Kentucky: Wolfe County

- Median household income: $24,623
- Total number of households: 2,898
- Households making less than $10,000: 16.3%
- Households making less than $25,000: 50.4%

Food preparation and serving-related occupations are the most common jobs for Wolfe County residents and among the lowest-paid types of employment in the area. Residents with this job earn a median salary of $11,360.

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NatalieMaynor // Flickr

Louisiana: East Carroll Parish

- Median household income: $22,346
- Total number of households: 2,037
- Households making less than $10,000: 26.9%
- Households making less than $25,000: 53.1%

Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting represent one of the largest industries in East Carroll Parish. The state government in 2019 announced an investment of $50 million in infrastructure projects in the region, including a bridge in East Carroll Parish, in an effort to bolster the agriculture industry.

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ems18 // Flickr

Maine: Piscataquis County

- Median household income: $40,890
- Total number of households: 7,025
- Households making less than $10,000: 7.9%
- Households making less than $25,000: 30.4%

Workers in Piscataquis County primarily work in the industries of health care and social assistance, as well as manufacturing. The county has just one business in it that employs more than 500 people.

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Chesapeake Bay Program // Flickr

Maryland: Somerset County

- Median household income: $37,803
- Total number of households: 8,574
- Households making less than $10,000: 13.4%
- Households making less than $25,000: 32.1%

Located around 100 miles from the nearest major cities, Somerset County is primarily home to business and industrial centers. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Sysco Eastern Maryland are among the biggest employers in the county.

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Real Window Creative // Shutterstock

Massachusetts: Hampden County

- Median household income: $55,429
- Total number of households: 179,423
- Households making less than $10,000: 7.4%
- Households making less than $25,000: 24.2%

Most workers in Hampden County are employed in the health care and social assistance industry. Income inequality throughout the state is higher than the national average, with men in the state making 1.3 times what a woman makes for the same job.

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Tony Faiola // Flickr

Michigan: Lake County

- Median household income: $37,320
- Total number of households: 4,631
- Households making less than $10,000: 10.9%
- Households making less than $25,000: 33.8%

Manufacturing and retail trade are the largest industries by number of employees in Michigan’s Lake County. The median property value here is $84,400, with more than 84% of residents owning their own homes.

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J. Stephen Conn // Flickr

Minnesota: Mahnomen County

- Median household income: $44,688
- Total number of households: 1,946
- Households making less than $10,000: 8.0%
- Households making less than $25,000: 27.8%

Set within the White Earth Indian Reservation, Mahnomen County has a high proportion of workers in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry. Major employers in the area include the Shooting Star Casino and Mahnomen Health Center.

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Chillin662 // Wikimedia Commons

Mississippi: Holmes County

- Median household income: $21,504
- Total number of households: 6,188
- Households making less than $10,000: 28.1%
- Households making less than $25,000: 55.8%

Holmes County is one of the poorest counties in the entire United States. Almost three-fifths of the residents live in poverty and receive help from the federal government. Their lack of employment isn’t for lack of trying (in February 2021, there were 31 available jobs in the area and 700 job seekers), but seems to be the product of the systemic racism that still has hold over the town. The average white household from 2010-2014 had a median income of $40,000 while the average Black household had a median income of $19,000.

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Kbh3rd // Wikimedia Commons

Missouri: Ozark County

- Median household income: $31,947
- Total number of households: 3,958
- Households making less than $10,000: 12.2%
- Households making less than $25,000: 40.3%

As previously discussed, industries like manufacturing, construction, and retail trade tend to be lower-paying than other fields. It makes sense, then, that an area like Missouri’s Ozark County, where these industries dominate the local economy, would have lower incomes, on average, than neighboring counties where higher-paying fields dominate.

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Tom Robertson // Shutterstock

Montana: Glacier County

- Median household income: $36,045
- Total number of households: 4,163
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.9%
- Households making less than $25,000: 37.2%

Glacier County’s median household income is significantly lower than in the nearby counties of Pondera and Toole. Most workers are employed in the educational services or accommodation and food services industries.

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Jasperdo // Flickr

Nebraska: Brown County

- Median household income: $43,098
- Total number of households: 1,387
- Households making less than $10,000: 4.8%
- Households making less than $25,000: 26.5%

Ask a resident of Brown County what they do for a living, and they’ll probably say they work in management or sales. Most workers in the area are employed in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry.

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Ken L. // Flickr

Nevada: Mineral County

- Median household income: $35,806
- Total number of households: 2,048
- Households making less than $10,000: 10.1%
- Households making less than $25,000: 37.8%

Mineral County has a workforce of just over 1,700 employees. The county has an atypically high number of workers in the occupation of fire fighting and prevention, and other protective service workers (including supervisors).

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jorisvo // Shutterstock

New Hampshire: Coos County

- Median household income: $47,117
- Total number of households: 13,768
- Households making less than $10,000: 5.1%
- Households making less than $25,000: 24.1%

Coos County’s largest industry by number of employees is health care and social assistance. There’s an effort among local business leaders and politicians to strengthen ties between Coos County and Quebec to boost the economy.

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Nick Vendetta // Shutterstock

New Jersey: Cumberland County

- Median household income: $54,149
- Total number of households: 50,729
- Households making less than $10,000: 8.6%
- Households making less than $25,000: 24.5%

Most Cumberland County workers are employed by the health care and social assistance industry. The county has a slow rate of job growth: Cumberland County employment increased less than 1% from 2016 to 2017 and is projected to see just 18.3% growth over the next decade (compared with the national average of 33.5%).

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Granger Meador // Flickr

New Mexico: Guadalupe County

- Median household income: $24,798
- Total number of households: 1,384
- Households making less than $10,000: 10.9%
- Households making less than $25,000: 50.4%

The median household income in Guadalupe County is not just low—it’s also falling. Most employed residents work in the industry of public administration.

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TierneyMJ // Shutterstock

New York: Bronx County

- Median household income: $40,088
- Total number of households: 503,829
- Households making less than $10,000: 13.5%
- Households making less than $25,000: 35.3%

With a continuous influx of immigrants, Bronx County is among New York's fastest-growing counties. It has gained a significant amount of new jobs in the last decade. These opportunities aren’t usually lucrative, though. In 2017, the average salary for a job in the private sector in the Bronx was $48,700, around 2.5 times less than positions in neighboring Manhattan.

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Gerry Dincher // Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina: Robeson County

- Median household income: $34,976
- Total number of households: 45,927
- Households making less than $10,000: 13.6%
- Households making less than $25,000: 37.1%

Between 1993 and 2003, Robeson County saw dozens of manufacturing plants close their doors, which resulted in job loss for nearly 10,000 residents. The production and manufacturing industry remains the county’s largest, employing more than 8,000 people, but the region is still struggling to bounce back from the closures that have had a ripple effect on the entire area.

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Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

North Dakota: Sioux County

- Median household income: $38,939
- Total number of households: 1,112
- Households making less than $10,000: 18.2%
- Households making less than $25,000: 35.6%

Sioux County is the only county in America to lie entirely within a reservation, namely the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. As a result, there’s very little in the way of employment opportunities within the county itself. The vast majority of them worked in administrative or management roles for the reservation, which are traditionally low-paying and provide very little room for growth.

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J. Stephen Conn // Flickr

Ohio: Adams County

- Median household income: $39,079
- Total number of households: 10,673
- Households making less than $10,000: 11.2%
- Households making less than $25,000: 33.6%

Two Adams County power plants shuttered in 2018, resulting in the loss of more than 1,100 total jobs in the region. For many former local power plant workers, alternative job options come with lower wages.

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Jimmy Emerson, DVM // Flickr

Oklahoma: Choctaw County

- Median household income: $34,489
- Total number of households: 5,971
- Households making less than $10,000: 13.0%
- Households making less than $25,000: 38.2%

The median household income in Choctaw County has hovered not far above $30,000 since 2013. The highest-paid jobs in the county are architecture and engineering occupations, while the lowest-paid jobs are in food preparation and serving-related occupations.

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Jesse Stephens // Shutterstock

Oregon: Lake County

- Median household income: $37,898
- Total number of households: 3,515
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.8%
- Households making less than $25,000: 32.7%

Lake County is banking on renewable energy to dig itself out of years of economic stagnation. The county has seen new projects from biofuel companies and solar energy developers in recent years. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting is the largest industry by the number of employees.

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Nicholas A. Tonelli // Flickr

Pennsylvania: Forest County

- Median household income: $39,717
- Total number of households: 1,839
- Households making less than $10,000: 8.4%
- Households making less than $25,000: 29.8%

Forest County lost more than a quarter of its employment from 2016 to 2017 alone. Most workers are in public administration or health care and social assistance fields.

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Richard Cavalleri // Shutterstock

Rhode Island: Providence County

- Median household income: $58,974
- Total number of households: 237,971
- Households making less than $10,000: 7.6%
- Households making less than $25,000: 23.3%

Most employment in Providence County is in the industries of health care and social assistance, as well as retail and manufacturing. Law enforcement workers are the highest-paid occupation in the county.

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Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

South Carolina: Allendale County

- Median household income: $27,185
- Total number of households: 3,365
- Households making less than $10,000: 18.8%
- Households making less than $25,000: 46.1%

Household incomes in Allendale County have been mostly on the decline since 2014. Experts warn that the area could lose about 15% in income by the end of the century due to the effects of global warming.

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J. Stephen Conn // Flickr

South Dakota: Todd County

- Median household income: $24,331
- Total number of households: 2,700
- Households making less than $10,000: 29.0%
- Households making less than $25,000: 50.8%

More than 80% of Todd County residents are American Indian. Some residents say that decades of flawed U.S. government practices impacting Native Americans have contributed to economic adversities in Todd County.

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Jimmy Emerson // Flickr

Tennessee: Hancock County

- Median household income: $30,136
- Total number of households: 2,742
- Households making less than $10,000: 14.5%
- Households making less than $25,000: 41.3%

Hancock County’s largest industries by the number of employees are manufacturing and health care and social assistance. Most workers in the area are in production occupations.

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jmanaugh3 // Shutterstock

Texas: Presidio County

- Median household income: $25,098
- Total number of households: 2,543
- Households making less than $10,000: 14.4%
- Households making less than $25,000: 49.6%

The impoverished Texas county of Presidio has embraced new economic activities in recent years. These include a natural gas pipeline and chili roasting facility, with benefits for average residents remaining to be seen.

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Serj Malomuzh // Shutterstock

Utah: Wayne County

- Median household income: $44,245
- Total number of households: 1,000
- Households making less than $10,000: 5.8%
- Households making less than $25,000: 26.2%

In Wayne County, tourism is the main industry. Travelers from around the country flock to Capitol Reef National Park and most locals work in accommodations and food services. While the jobs are plentiful, they don’t always pay well—especially for those under management level.

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cmh2315fl // Flickr

Vermont: Essex County

- Median household income: $44,349
- Total number of households: 2,740
- Households making less than $10,000: 6.2%
- Households making less than $25,000: 27.3%

Wholesale trade is the highest-paying industry by a long shot in Essex County. However, most workers in the area are employed by the health care and social assistance industry, which pays significantly less.

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Corvokarasu // Wikimedia Commons

Virginia: Emporia City

- Median household income: $27,063
- Total number of households: 2,086
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.1%
- Households making less than $25,000: 46.9%

The second-smallest town in Virginia, Emporia City was once a trade hub but is now a sleepy, pass-through city. Located 80 miles from Norfolk, the closest metropolis, Emporia’s relatively rural location and subsequent distance from high-paying industries and businesses may contribute to low median household incomes.

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Mark Pouley // Flickr

Washington: Ferry County

- Median household income: $41,939
- Total number of households: 3,060
- Households making less than $10,000: 9.6%
- Households making less than $25,000: 33.5%

Ferry County lost its largest employer, a gold mine, in 2018. With its closure came the loss of high-wage jobs and stagnating median household incomes.

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cmh2315fl // Flickr

West Virginia: McDowell County

- Median household income: $27,682
- Total number of households: 7,607
- Households making less than $10,000: 15.5%
- Households making less than $25,000: 44.6%

McDowell County has struggled for decades. Its residents were among the first to receive food stamps when the program was created in the 1960s and the declining coal industry is continuing to bring the local economy down with it.

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Royalbroil // Wikimedia Commons

Wisconsin: Menominee County

- Median household income: $40,921
- Total number of households: 1,408
- Households making less than $10,000: 8.0%
- Households making less than $25,000: 32.7%

The borders of Menominee County are coterminous with the Menominee Indian Reservation and Menominee Township. Just like Sioux County, which also lies inside an Indian reservation, there are few jobs to be had in Menominee, and those that do exist are often tied to the reservation and low-paying.

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Jeffrey Beall // Flickr

Wyoming: Albany County

- Median household income: $49,322
- Total number of households: 15,944
- Households making less than $10,000: 8.0%
- Households making less than $25,000: 25.2%

Home to the University of Wyoming and Wyotech-Laramie, Albany County’s largest industry is educational services. Food preparation and serving-related occupations are both the fifth most common job for Albany County residents and the lowest-paid positions in the area.

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