There’s a stereotype throughout much of the United States that Kentucky is a poor state. I often wondered why this was, because even though we do have some poor areas in Kentucky, I’ve also seen poor areas in every state I’ve traveled in so that’s definitely not the only reason for the stereotype. I thought I’d dig into the topic a bit more after seeing this picture from floating around the Internet.


After a quick Google search for “median household income by state,” I found that Kentucky is just 4th from the lowest income.  I can see why that might make someone think Kentucky is poor.  However there is a flaw in that idea; the cost of living isn’t the same everywhere.  In fact, Kentucky has the 4th lowest cost of living in the United States.  I’ll spare you the math but you can take a look if you’re interested.

All you need to know to understand the chart below is that it’s the median income with cost of living factored in.  The results when you factor in the cost of living get mixed around a bit, but West Virginia and Mississippi are still firmly in our bottom four.  The new loser is Hawaii, tumbling all the way from the 8th highest median income down to #50 due to the extremely high cost of living.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Virginia takes the lead, climbing from 7th place to 1st place due to a lower cost of living and higher median income.

Adjusted Median Income

So it boils down to people comparing Apples to Oranges.  When was the last time you heard someone say New York or Hawaii are poor states?  Yet, while someone who lives there might have 10-20k more on their paycheck each year than someone living in Kentucky, due to the higher cost of living, they can buy fewer goods and services than the Kentuckian.  Maybe the question everyone should be asking instead is, “Why is it so awesome to live in Kentucky?”