8 Poor States With the Highest Death Rates

Poverty kills. Eight of the poorest states in the U.S. also come with the highest chance of death. Poor states with high mortality rates include Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

States With the Most Poverty

The map below shows the states with the highest percentage of people living in poor areas. The poorest states are shown in purple. The data come from the U.S. Census Bureau.

being poor can kill you poverty by state census department

All of the following states have at least 30% of their residents living in poverty areas:

  • West Virginia
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • New Mexico

States With the Highest Mortality Rates

The map below, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows the states with the highest mortality rates. The states with the highest death rates are shown in darkest blue.

being poor can kill you death rates by state kaiser family foundation

The eight states with the highest mortality rates include:

  • Mississippi: .95%
  • Alabama: .93%
  • West Virginia: .92%
  • Oklahoma: .91%
  • Kentucky: .90%
  • Louisiana: .89%
  • Arkansas: .89%
  • Tennessee: .88%

Deadly State, Poor State

All eight states with the highest mortality rates in the U.S. are also in the list of top ten poorest states in the U.S.

In fact, superimposing the poverty map over the mortality map, we get an interesting and frightening poverty/death zone in dark purple:

mortality and poverty

Poverty map superimposed over mortality map shows the deadliest states are also the poorest.

Also see: 7 Ways Being Poor Can Kill You

Why Do States With High Poverty Have High Mortality?

There are literally dozens of reasons states with high mortality also have high poverty. Poverty and mortality are inextricably linked. Poorer areas tend to have higher murder rates. They have less tax money to spend on schools and basic services. Poor areas have decreased access to good supermarkets with healthy food choices.

Poor states may have more health hazards also. People in poor states are less likely to pursue a college education and more likely to drop out of school. They’re more likely to smoke cigarettes.

Poor states also have poor environmental regulations. For example the impoverished state of Louisiana produces 3.8 million tons of toxic waste each year. That’s far above the national average.

Poor states tend to have older housing with more health problems like mold and asbestos. In many poor states, the lack of funding for basic services creates other threats to health and well being. For example, West Virginia’s Fayette county has no public trash pickup service. Residents must pay an additional $19 monthly for a trash company to come collect their refuse. Instead of paying the extra money for trash collection, many residents simply burn their trash in yards or fireplaces, resulting in the regular release of fumes from burning plastic.

Also see: 3 Ways Being Poor Makes You Fat


Number of Deaths per 100,000 Population – Kaiser Family Foundation