The Worst States to Make a Living

Employment and the economy all vary greatly depending on which state you live in. Even high-income earners will find it difficult to make a living in these states.

The state of the country and its economy is all relative and depends heavily on which state you live in. Working conditions in the United States are far from equal, according to MoneyRates.com

In the fourth annual Best and Worst States to Make a Living, MoneyRates discovered that states that have been doing well continue to do so. For instance, Washington state was named the best state for all-round employment conditions for the second year in a row. Other states that remained in the top 10 include: Texas, Minnesota, Utah, Colorado, and Virginia.

Some states improved greatly year over year. For instance, North Dakota ranked 6 this year after jumping up 17 spots, and Nevada, which as struggled severely since the recession, came in at 8 this year.

Many of the 10 worst states are located in the Northeast, plagued with high cost of living, and the Southeast, with low median incomes.

Using statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, C2ER, and Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, MoneyRates ranked states based on 4 factors: average salary, cost of living, employment rate, and workplace conditions. (Housing prices are from Trulia.)

10. South Carolina

Median household income: $44,623

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Median housing price: $288,908

Unemployment rate: 5.3%

Cost of living: 96.1

Georgetown

Although the state’s overall cost of living is below the national average (100), it’s groceries and utilities are above it (104.8 and 106.5, respectively), according C2ER’s statistics. MoneyRates reports that the state’s low wages are too low to be justified by the low cost of living. In fact, the poverty rate in the state is 17.6%, above the national average of 14.9%.

9. New Jersey

Median household income: $71,637

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Median housing price: $442,004

Unemployment rate: 6.8%

Cost of living: 127.6

Spring Lake

The Garden State has the highest median household income in the top 10, by far; however, that means little when cost of living is higher than the national average, and the state has one of the worst tax environments in the country (second only to New York). Plus, according to C2ER’s statistics, New Jersey’s housing is a lot higher than the national average (167.7 compared to 100). According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, healthcare support workers likely don’t make enough to support him or herself and one child.

8. Arkansas

Median household income: $40,531

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Median housing price: $196,908

Unemployment rate: 6.4%

Cost of living: 92.5

Little Rock

While the cost of living may be one of the lowest in the country, residents of Arkansas also have low incomes and below average workplace conditions, according to the Gallup-Healthways survey. Plus, cost of living may be low, but Arkansas has above average state and local taxes.

7. Alabama

Median household income: $43,160

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Median housing price: $228,528

Unemployment rate: 6.8%

Cost of living: 92.4

Huntsville

The state isn’t ideal for retiring in either, according to Bankrate.com, because of poor healthcare quality and low scores for emotional and physical health. Alabama wasn’t in the top 10 worst state to make a living last year, though, but it recently fell 5 spots in the ranking. Cost of living may be low, but income is as well and unemployment it high.

6. Alaska

Median household income: $69,917

Median housing listing price: $318,635

Unemployment rate: 6.4%

Cost of living: 131.8

Anchorage

Alaska is great for taxes since it has no income tax at all. However, the lack of income tax simply means residents have to contend with a higher-than-average cost of living. The median household income may be above the national average, and one of the highest on this list, but in the end it all evens out.

5. Connecticut

Median household income: $69,519

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Median housing price: $569,488

Unemployment rate: 6.9%

Cost of living: 125.2

Greenwich

Connecticut wasn’t on this list last year, but it fell 9 spots. High income doesn’t make up for the high cost of living, the high unemployment rate, and the poor workplace conditions. Plus, the state is one of the most expensive to raise a child in, according to data from Business Insider. On average, it costs $15,000 to raise a child.

4. Rhode Island

Median household income: $56,102

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Median housing price: $432,388

Unemployment rate: 8.2%

Cost of living: 120.9

Pawtucket

The unemployment rate in Rhode Island is the highest in the entire country and far above the national average of 6.4%. Like it’s neighbor, Connecticut, cost of raising a child is expensive, and its high cost of living neutralizes the high incomes. This all despite having fairly low taxes, according to MoneyRates.

3. Mississippi

Median household income: $38,882

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Median housing price: $201,512

Unemployment rate: 7.7%

Cost of living: 87.8

Jackson

Mississippi has the lowest income within the top 10, but it also has the lowest cost of living in the entire country. And that’s for those who can get jobs. Mississippi still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Plus, the state has the lowest rating for its workplace conditions.

2. New York

Median household income: $57,683

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Median housing price: $750,669

Unemployment rate: 6.7%

Cost of living: 132.2

Albany

It likely comes as no surprise that New York is an expensive place to live. A higher-than-average income isn’t enough to get by in a state that has some of the most expensive housing in the country, the worst tax environment in the country, and a relatively high unemployment rate. When all of it is taken together, despite the high income, New Yorkers come out behind the typical workers, according to MoneyRates.

1. Hawaii

Median household income: $67,492

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Median housing price: $966,433

Unemployment rate: 4.4%

Cost of living: 162.9

Hana Beach, Maui

A piece of paradise isn’t cheap. In all 4 years that MoneyRates has held this study, Hawaii has always been named the worst place to make a living. Hawaii’s cost of living is far more expensive than the rest of the country. At least, though, the state has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Despite the high house listing price, homes in Hawaii sell for an average of $317,000, still above average, but by much less.