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Wealth report reveals richest states, poorest states

Getty Images, msnbc.com, files

In Greenwich, Conn., left, homes often go for millions. That is less common in places like Bay St. Louis, Miss., right.

The latest census data on poverty and income was released this week -- a huge dump of data that journalists and economists are still sorting through. The main headlines showed that the poverty rate jumped past 15 percent last year as inflation-adjusted incomes fell in perhaps the most disappointing economic recovery of the post-World War II era.

Now our friends at 24/7 Wall Street have crunched the numbers by state  to determine the richest and poorest by median income.

While it seems almost a cliche, it is nevertheless true that the poorest states are clustered in the South, while the richest states are mainly in the Northeast.

At the bottom is Mississippi with a staggering poverty rate of 21.3 percent. Mississippi also has the lowest median household income at $36,850, well below No. 2 (No. 49?) Arkansas, where the median income is $38,600. Mississippi also has the nation's seventh-highest unemployment rate at 10.4 percent.

Why is Mississippi so poor?

Historically, people in Mississippi are likely to be less educated -- only 19 percent of adults have college degrees, compared with  27.5 percent nationwide. In addition, a higher-than-average proportion of Mississipians live in rural areas, where wages tend to be lower. These patterns hold true in many other Southern states, many of which also are among the nation's poorest.

“These are the states that have had the least educated workers and have not been able to find a niche to develop economically,” says Sheldon Danziger, executive director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan. “Part of the global challenge is having an educated work force.”

The richest state is New Hampshire, with a median income of $66,303 and an extremely low unemployment rate of 5.2%.

From 24/7 Wall Street:

Like Massachusetts, the state has few wealthy areas, but it also does not have any major urban areas with high poverty rates. Hillsborough County, the most populous in the state, has a median household income of nearly $65,000. According to Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, the state benefits from a larger-than-average middle class, the result of businesses generally paying higher wages. New Hampshire also has no regional or state tax on personal income, and no sales tax.

Here are the nation’s richest states, as analyzed by 24/7 Wall St.:

  1. New Hampshire
    Median income: $66,303
    Poverty rate: 7.1% (the lowest)
    Unemployment: 5.2% (4th lowest)
  2. Connecticut
    Median income: $65,958
    Poverty rate: 8.3% (2nd lowest)
    Unemployment: 9.1% (19th highest)
  3. New Jersey
    Median income: $65,173
    Poverty rate: 9.8% (7th lowest)
    Unemployment: 9.5% (14th highest)
  4. Maryland
    Median income: $64,596
    Poverty rate: 9.7% (6th lowest)
    Unemployment: 7.2% (14th lowest)
  5. Alaska
    Median income: $61,872
    Poverty rate: 10.8% (13th lowest)
    Unemployment: 7.7% (20th lowest)

And here are the nation's poorest states:

  1. Mississippi
    Median income: $36,850
    Poverty rate: 21.3% (the highest)
    Unemployment rate: 10.4% (7th highest)
  2. Arkansas
    Median income: $38,600
    Poverty rate: 16.5% (8th highest)
    Unemployment rate: 8.2% (25th highest)
  3. Tennessee
    Median income: $40,026
    Poverty rate: 16.1% (11th highest)
    Unemployment rate: 9.8% (11th highest)
  4. West Virginia
    Median income: $40,824
    Poverty rate: 15.7% (12th highest)
    Unemployment rate: 8.1% (tied for 24th lowest)
  5. Louisiana
    Median income: $41,896
    Poverty rate: 18% (4th highest)
     Unemployment rate: 7.6% (17th lowest)

For more from 24/7 Wall Street, click here:

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