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2. Arkansas

Median household income: $40,112
Population: 2,949,131

Arkansas is starting to regain some traction that it lost post-recession. For the first time since 2008, the state's median household income crept above $40,000, rising to $40,112 from $38,758 last year.

The gains in income came even as the state's agriculture sector was hurt by a devastating drought. While beef cattle production was down all throughout the nation, nowhere was more affected than Arkansas, which saw beef production fall 6 percent, double that of the national percentage.

Real estate, especially expensive homes, also were hit hard. According to Arkansas Business, only 13 houses sold for more than $1 million last year in the state's wealthiest county. In 2011, only 22 homes were sold for more than seven figures.

Arkansas' poverty rate was 19.8 percent, which put it at the fourth-highest behind Mississippi, New Mexico and Louisiana—and just ahead of Kentucky.

Ionas Kaltenbach | Lonely Planet Images | Getty Images