2016 April: Ten poorest states in the US


The 2016 Poverty Guidelines for US states shows what the poverty threshold is for various household sizes. For a household with four members the threshold is set at US$ 24,300. For those of you traveling with an exchange organization to the US, this is the starting sum for when a household qualifies for government assistance. US regulations state that exchange students should not be placed in households in need of welfare. There are many reasons for this regulation.

«Poor neighborhoods come with an array of challenges that negatively affect both the people who live in those neighborhoods—whether they themselves are poor or not—as well as the larger regions in which those neighborhoods are located.1 Residents of poor neighborhoods face higher crime rates and exhibit poorer physical and mental health outcomes. They tend to go to poor-performing neighborhood schools with higher dropout rates. Their job-seeking networks tend to be weaker and they face higher levels of financial insecurity.» (E. Kneebone)

This post looks at corruption, weapons carry laws, dangerous neighborhoods and worst/best schools.

According to the 24/7 Wall Street, the ten poorest States are, starting with the poorest: Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas,  Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina and Montana

The ten most corrupt states are, starting with the worst: Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Alaska, South Dakota, Kentucky, and Florida. (Washington Post)


mississippi-county-map18 million people depend on the Mississippi River for their drinking water. At this time (2016) we do not advise exchange students to rely on tap water from MR. (Mississippi)

For each $1.00 Mississippi sends to the federal government in taxes, it receives $2.00 in federal subsidies. The median household income is $39,680

According to 24/7 Wall Street:

“Mississippi is among the states with the worst education systems, highest  obesity levels, highest unemployment, and lowest rates of health insurance  coverage. The state is an economic black hole, and it shows in the way people  suffer there. And, as is true with black holes, it is nearly impossible for the  residents of Mississippi to escape their difficult financial situations.”

Mississippi is not only the poorest state in the US, it is also the most corrupt state in the US.

«the high level of corruption in the state resulted in high state spending on projects where it was conducive to make bribes — “bribe-generating” projects — such as capital improvements and highway construction, while leaving a paucity of cash for socially beneficial projects, such as schools and health facilities. It also noted massive cost overruns on “bribe-generating” projects, thanks to those bribes, as well as blatant payoffs to government officials, who are getting wealthy at the expense of the poor.» (The New American)

It is now possible to cross school district lines to a charter school if you live in a district with poor grades according to 2016 SB 2161.

Mississippi is an open carry State. With regards to concealed weapons:

«licensed gun owners who have “additional” training to carry concealed firearms in certain locations previously prohibited by law.  These locations include courthouses, polling places, government meetings, any school, college or professional athletic event, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, any elementary or secondary school facility, any junior college, community college, college or university facility, inside the passenger terminal of any airport, and in any church or other place of worship.» (Jackson|Lewis)

HB1523 (2016) permits severe discrimination against LGBTQ+ and women.

Poverty and crime

According to Wikipedia, Mississippi’s poorest counties are:

  • Holmes County
  • Humphreys County
  • Claiborne County
  • Quitman County
  • Jefferson County
  • Leflore County
  • Wilkinson County
  • Sharkey County
  • Jefferson Davis County
  • Tallahatchie County

Out of the 100 most dangerous cities, Jackson has become safer and is now at 76th place. Its safest neighborhood is S Siwell Rd / Henderson Rd. Neighborhood Scout has more details.


Schooldigger claims that the five worst high schools in Mississippi are:

  1. Hazlehurst High School, Hazlehurst
  2. West Bolivar Dist High School, Rosedale
  3. Newton High School, Newton
  4. Wingfield High School, Jackson
  5. West Lowndes High School, Columbus

According to Niche, the best public high schools are:

  1. Pass Christian High School, Pass Christian
  2. Oak Grove High School, Hattiesburg
  3. Clinton High School, Clinton
  4. Petal High School, Petal
  5. DeSoto Central High School, Southhaven


West Virginia County Map; GeologyThe minimum wage was just (2016) raised from $8 to $8.75.

There has been a drinking water crisis in WV since 2014 due to chemical spills. New spills keep the crisis going. Poverty forces people to drink the tap-water. Please check the water quality of the area of your host-family before you accept your placement.

West Virginia is ranked as the 17th most corrupt state. Every arena from lotteries to the justice system are affected. (Public Integrity)

Open carrying of handguns and long guns is legal in West Virginia (LCTPGV) although concealed carrying without permit may be legal soon.

Poverty and crime

The poorest counties in West Virginia are:

  • Doddridge County
  • McDowell County
  • Webster County
  • Mingo County

West Virginia also has a city among the 100 most dangerous cities. In 33rd place is Charleston. According to Neighborhood Scout, Tyler Mountain is Charleston’s safest neighborhood.


West Virginia’s worst schools are:

  1. Hannan High School, Ashton
  2. River View High School, Bradshaw
  3. Wayne High School, Wayne
  4. Philip Barbour High School, Philippi
  5. Logan Senior High School, Logan

According to Niche WV’s best schools are:

  1. University High School, Morgantown
  2. Bridgeport High School, Bridgeport
  3. Morgantown High School, Morgantown
  4. Fairmont Senior High School, Fairmont
  5. George Washington High School, Charleston


arkansas-county-mapState unemployment is now down to 4% (Arkansas News). Arkansas has, however, popped up one place on this list.
Arkansas is an open carry gun state. Concealed weapons require a permit. However, there are many places a person may not at all carry a weapon. (CDL)

Poverty and crime

According to Wikipedia the poorest counties in Arkansas are:

  • Lee County
  • Phillips County
  • Chicot County
  • Woodruff County
  • Stone County
  • St. Francis County

Pine Bluff, Little Rock and West Memphis rank among the most dangerous cities in the US. The safest neighborhood in Pine Bluff is Watson Chapel / Sorrels. In Little Rock you hope to be placed in Ferndale / Northpoint. West Memphis lists N Airport Rd / W Service Road as its safest neighborhood. (NS)


The five worst schools in Arkansas are listed as:

  1. Hope High School, Hope
  2. Mineral Springs High School, Mineral Springs
  3. Marvell High School, Marvell
  4. McClelland Magnet High School, Little Rock
  5. Strong High School, Strong

The five best high schools in Arkansas are:

  1. Haas Hall Academy, Fayetteville
  2. Bentonville High School, Bentonville
  3. Rogers High School, Rogers
  4. Lakeside High School, Hot Springs
  5. Fayetteville High School East, Fayetteville


alabama-county-mapAlabama lists as one of the most corrupt state in the US. This is with regard to both illegal corruption and political corruption. (AL)

Coal mining seems to be the greatest water pollutant in Alabama. Some of that water comes from major drinking water sources. (SE) Alabama has been listed as the 5th most air-polluted state. (GG)

Adults, who have not committed violent crimes or who are not drug addicts, may openly carry weapons without a permit in Alabama. Concealed carrying requires a permit. There are places and situations where regular citizens may not carry guns at all. (CDL)

Poverty and crime

Extreme poverty is on the rise. About 27% of children in Alabama live in poverty. Much of the extreme poverty is along the black-belt of Alabama (former slave counties). The poorest counties in Alabama are:

  • Wilcox County
  • Sumter County
  • Greene County
  • Bullock County
  • Dallas County
  • Perry County
  • Macon County
  • Conecuh County

Cities listed among the 100 most dangerous in USA are Gadsen and Birmingham. The safest neighborhood in Gadsen is Tabor/Brice. In Birmingham the safest neighborhood is Cahaba Valley Rd/Double Oak Ln.


Schooldigger lists the following high schools as the worst in Alabama:

  1. Jackson-Olin High School, Birmingham City
  2. Marengo High School, Dixons Mills
  3. Bullock County High School, Union Springs
  4. Keith Middle-High School, Orrville
  5. Marion High School, Marion

Alabamas five best high schools are:

  1. Loveless Academic Magnet Prog High School, Montgomery
  2. Homewood High School, Homewood
  3. Mt Brook High School, Mountain Brook
  4. Spain Park High School, Hoover
  5. Bob Jones High School, Madison


kentucky-county-mapBoth coal industry and power plants are responsible for Kentucky’s listing as the first place winner of air-pollution (WFPL). Traditionally the coal industry has been one of the greatest job providers. Fracking and coal are responsible for polluted ground-water and other water sources that people depend on for drinking water and food (SF).

Kentucky is listed as the ninth most corrupt state in the US. It is currently being investigated by the FBI.

In Kentucky you must be above 21 years old to carry a gun. Certain adults are denied the right to bear arms and there are certain places and situations where all regular citizens are denied the right to bear. Kentucky is an open carry state. Concealed carry requires a permit. (CDL)

Poverty and crime

26 percent of the children in Kentucky live in poverty. Many areas do not have access to electricity or access to their city’s water/sewage system. (NCCP) According to Wikipedia the poorest counties in Kentucky are:

  • Owlsley County
  • McCreary
  • Bell County
  • Clay County
  • Lee County
  • Wolfe County
  • Knox County
  • Harlan County
  • Knott County
  • Leslie County …..

Kentucky does not have any cities on the list of the 100 most dangerous cities in the US.


At the bottom of the list there are many (296-244) alternative schools. These include detention schools to special education schools. I am not including them on this list because I do not think that they are representative. This explains why there is a large gap between the numbers below.

  1. Valley High School, Louisville
  2. Doss High School, Louisville
  3. Western High School, Louisville
  4. Southern High School, Louisville
  5. Newport High School, Newport

The five best high schools are:

  1. Dupont Manual High School, Louisville
  2. Highlands High School, Fort Thomas
  3. Beechwood High School, Fort Mitchell
  4. Bowling Green High School, Bowling Green
  5. Ballard High School, Louisville


tennessee-county-map by GeologyTennessee is a newcomer to this list. Unfortunately for it, Tennessee lists as the third most corrupt state in the US. «while corruption may seem like a purely political problem, it’s actually a force that can make or break an entire local economy.» (Pando)

About 30 percent of the state’s streams cannot support fish and other aquatic wildlife (UTIA). The latest incident happened April 5, 2016. (ABC) Companies have no reason to stop polluting as the state does not seem to fine law-breakers (NYT). Air pollution is mainly carbon based due to coal driven power plants. Tennessee is in the US hurricane corridor.

«In Tennessee, adults can purchase and openly carry a gun without a license. However, you must obtain a concealed handgun license to carry a concealed gun in your car or on (or near) your body.» (CDL) «State Law prescribes a maximum penalty of six (6) years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed three thousand dollars ($3000) for carrying weapons on school property. «(HHCDE)

Poverty and Crime

While the many US states are getting out of the economy hump, Tennessee is going the other direction. Poverty is increasing. About 26% of Tennessee’s children live in poverty (TFP). Lowest income counties in Tennessee are (Wikipedia):

  • Bledsoe County
  • Hancock County
  • Lake County
  • Lauderdale County
  • Union County
  • Scott County

Chattanooga, Jackson, Nashville and Memphis are listed among the 100 most dangerous cities in the US. The safest neighborhood in Chattanooga is Ryall Springs. In Jackson it is Adair/Roberts. In Nashville, the safest neighborhood is McCrory Ln/Poplar Creek Rd, and for Memphis it is Democrat Rd/American Way.


Tennessee is phasing out Common Core from their school system. (USAToday). Tennessee has several alternative high schools at the bottom of their list of schools. These are special education schools, charter schools and detention schools. Because of this the numbering is off.

  1. Sequoyah High School, Soddy Daisy
  2. The Howard School, Chattanooga
  3. Pearl Cohn Magnet High School, Nashville
  4. Maplewood High School,  Nashville
  5. Brainerd High School, Chattanooga

Five best high schools

  1. Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School, Nashville
  2. Central Magnet School, Murfreesboro
  3. Ravenwood High School, Brentwood
  4. Merrol Hyde Magnet School, Hendersonville
  5. Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School, Nashville


louisiana-county-mapLouisiana ranks as the second most corrupt state in the US. Corrupt judges, who get paid by private prisons, may send you to prison for years for petty crime. More politicians per/capita than any other state have been convicted (ABC)

«In Louisiana, you may purchase and openly carry firearms without a permit, as long as you are over the age of 17 and not prohibited by state or federal law to possess a gun. However, you must obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed gun on (or near) your body.» (CDL)

Louisiana is a high-risk state for flooding and hurricanes. Flooding can make drinking water sources dangerous. Louisiana’s water is already polluted and there are many sources for that pollution. Chemical spills are the largest contributors. (Nola) It may be that air pollution is going to increase soon. (Nola)

Poverty and crime

According to Wikipedia the poorest counties in Louisiana are:

  • East Carroll Parish
  • Madison Parish
  • Tensas Parish
  • Washington Parish

Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Alexandria among the 100 most dangerous cities in the US. The safest neighborhood in Baton Rouge is Tiger Bend Rd/Antioch Rd. In New Orleans Bellaire Drive/Marcia Ave is the safest neighborhoods. McNutt/Gardner is the safest neighborhood in Alexandria.


I am not including alternative schools in this overview as they are based on a student population with atypical learning needs. The five worst schools in Louisiana are:

  1. Madison High School, Tallulah
  2. Belaire High School, Baton Rouge
  3. Bastrop High School, Bastrop
  4. Renew Accelerated High School West Bank Campus, New Orleans
  5. Kentwood High Magnet School, Kentwood

The five best schools are:

  1. Louisiana School for Math, Science & The Arts, Nagitatoches
  2. Benjamin Franklin High School, New Orleans
  3. Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Baton Rouge
  4. Lusher Charter School, New Orleans
  5. Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson


new-mexico-county-mapNew Mexico is another state that struggles with corruption. It has had three consecutive secretaries of state who have been indicted. Its ethics laws are weak (Governing). Its low-paid, part-time legislature might be especially susceptible to bribes (ABQJournal). «legal corruption is perceived to be common not only in the executive and legislative branches but also in the judicial branch» (Harvard).

«In New Mexico, adults may purchase and openly carry firearms in public without a permit. However, you must obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed gun on (or near) your body.» (CDL)

«Local governments in New Mexico generally lack authority to regulate firearms and ammunition, and New Mexico requires local law enforcement to issue a concealed handgun license to any applicant who meets certain basic qualifications.» (LCTPGV)

New Mexico has a chronic drought problem. In spite of that, ground water is polluted by the copper industry with the silent acceptance from NM government (DJ).  Coal-fired power plants are another major source of pollution in New Mexico. In addition, the long-term effects from a spill at a uranium mill at Church Rock are felt by CR’s ecosystem (DJ).

Poverty and crime

New Mexico has the highest rate of child poverty in the US. About 30% of the children in New Mexico live in poverty  (SFNM). Unemployment is high. According to Wikipedia that poorest counties in New Mexico are:

  • McKinley County
  • Cibola County
  • Luna County
  • Mora County
  • Sierra County
  • Quay County
  • Guadalupe County

Among the 100 most dangerous cities in the US we find Albuquerque. In Albuquerque the safest neighborhood is Paseo Del Norte NE/Eubank Blvd NE. In Albuquerque there is the added disadvantage of a criminal police force (RS)


According to Schooldigger the most challenged public high schools in New Mexico are (the reason for gaps in numbering is because the missing numbers = alternative schools):

  1. Gordon Bernell Charter, Albuquerque
  2. Opportunity High School, Silver City
  3. Tohatchi High School, Tohatchi
  4. Twin Buttes High School, Zuni
  5. Coronado High School, Gallina

The five best high schools are:

  1. Moreno Valley High, Angel High
  2. Albuquerque Institute Of Math & Science, Albuquerque
  3. NM School for the Arts, Santa Fe
  4. Los Alamos High, Los Alamos
  5. La Cueva High School, Albuquerque


south-carolina-county-mapCorruption in South Carolina continues much as before (PI). A potential change to ethics laws may open the door to further public corruption and hinder prosecution (P&C).

«In South Carolina, adults can purchase a handgun without a license. However, you must obtain a concealable handgun license to carry an open or concealed gun in your car or on (or near) your body; unless you are in your own home, on your own property, or at your place of business.» (CDL)

Air pollution in South Carolina seems to be getting better (AHR). Coal burning power plants have told to clean up and air quality is also affected by wind carried pollution from other states (GO). Beach water quality is poor (7th worst) and it is not recommended that people enter it after rain-fall (The State).  Stormwater pollution from flooding are causing serious problems elsewhere (COB).

Poverty and crime

26 percent of children in South Carolina live in poverty. Its place on this list has remained the same since last redo (Sep 2014). According to Wikipedia, Allendale County Jasper County, Dillon County, Marlboro County, Lee County, Williamsburg County and Bamberg County list among the 100 lowest income counties in the US.

Among the 100 most dangerous cities in the US, we find Anderson, Spartanburg and Myrtle Beach. In Anderson, the safest neighborhood is Route 187/Route 24. Anderson Mill Rd/Old Anderson Mill Rd is considered the safest neighborhood in Spartanburg. In Myrtle Beach, Moorland Dr/Legends Rd is considered the safest neighborhood.


South Carolina also sports detention schools, charter schools and special education schools that do not represent a general student population. This shows in the numbering.

  1. Allendale Fairfax High School, Allendale
  2. Estill High School, Estill
  3. C.A. Johnson High School, Columbia
  4. Blackville Hilda High School, Blackville
  5. Eau Claire High School, Columbia

Five best

  1. Academic Magnet High School, North Charleston
  2. Palmetto Scholars Academy, North Charleston
  3. Dutch Fork High School, Dutch Fork Township
  4. Fort Mill High School, Fort Mill
  5. Charleston School of the Arts, North Charleston


Montana County Map by GeologyCorruption seems to be on the rise in Montana (PI). Either that or it might be that the Attorney General’s office seems to vigilantely pursue political corruption. One such case is Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl vs. Republican State Rep. Art Wittich (MFP).

«In Montana, adults may purchase and openly carry firearms without a permit. However, you must obtain a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed gun on (or near) your body.» (CDL)

Coal feeds the power plants in Montana. That and fracking are major contributors to pollution (MEIC). Waterways have long been contaminated with mercury, lead and other dangerous chemicals (HCN). There is still a ways to go before lakes, rivers and streams are all assessed (EPA).

Poverty and crime

Twenty percent of children living in Montana live under the Federally mandated poverty index number (NCCP). None of Montana’s counties lists among the 100 lowest income counties in the US.

Montana does not have a city listed in the 100 most dangerous cities in the US.


The five schools in Montana with the lowest scores are:

  1. Browning High School, Browning
  2. Poplar High School, Poplar
  3. Moore High School, Moore
  4. Columbia Falls High School, Columbia Falls
  5. Lame Deer High School, Lame Deer

The five schools with the highest scores are:

  1. Bozeman High School, Bozeman
  2. Ennis High School, Ennis
  3. Choteau High School, Choteau
  4. Powder River County High School, Broadus
  5. Red Lodge High School, Red Lodge


!!This document was updated 18th April 2016!!

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