Income

Towns in Washington State With the Worst Poverty

halbergman / E+ via Getty Images

More than 60 years have passed since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, and yet, poverty remains endemic in the United States. In any given year over the last three decades, anywhere from 31.6 million to 48.8 million Americans were living below the poverty line. Over that period, the annual U.S. poverty rate climbed as high as 15.9%, and never fell below 11.3%.

The effects of poverty extend far beyond economics. According to the latest Pulse Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, 38% of American adults earning less than $25,000 reported feeling depressed or hopeless on most days, compared to 17% of all adults. Additionally, 27% of adults in the lowest income bracket reported not having enough to eat within the last week, three times the food insufficiency rate among all adults.

In most of the country, including Washington state, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sets the poverty line at an annual income of $15,060 for individuals and $31,200 for a family of four. In Washington, 9.9% of the population live below these thresholds — and in many towns across the state, the poverty rate is far higher.

Using five-year estimates from the Census’ 2022 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the towns in Washington with the highest poverty rates. We considered all places — including cities, towns, and unincorporated communities — with populations between 5,000 and 50,000. Because the presence of colleges and universities can distort economic realities in a given area, places where 20% or more of the population are enrolled in a post-secondary institution were excluded from analysis.

Among the 35 places on this list, poverty rates range from 13.0% to over 25%, and in all but two of these places, the typical household earns less than the statewide median household income of $90,325.

Widespread financial hardship in these areas is partially attributable to a lack of economic opportunity. In most places on this list, the five-year average unemployment rate is higher than the comparable 4.9% jobless rate across Washington.

Incomes and job security tend to rise with educational attainment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical worker with a bachelor’s degree earns 66% more than those with no more than a high school diploma. Additionally, workers with only a high school education are far more likely to be unemployed than college graduates. In nearly every town on this list, the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree is below the 38.0% statewide bachelor’s degree attainment rate.

Why It Matters

Hands-on food of the hungry is the hope of poverty : concept of homelessness
Source: addkm / Shutterstock.com

The United States is, in many ways, the center of gravity of the global economy. The U.S. dollar has been the world’s leading reserve currency since the end of World War II, and American gross domestic product accounts for over a quarter of economic activity worldwide. Despite these advantages, more than one in every 10 Americans have been living below the poverty line for decades. For those facing serious financial hardship, the effects are far reaching. Poverty can negatively impact mental health, social relationships, and life expectancy.

35. Lake Stickney

Source: Jim Hardy / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 13.0%
  • Median household income: $80,717
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 5.5%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 34.6%
  • Population: 14,668

34. Tukwila

Source: gmc3101 / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 13.3%
  • Median household income: $76,331
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 6.2%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 25.8%
  • Population: 21,569

33. Parkland

Source: Public Domain

  • Poverty rate: 13.4%
  • Median household income: $66,162
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 5.8%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 16.1%
  • Population: 39,398

32. Longview

Source: Maxvis / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 13.6%
  • Median household income: $57,920
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 4.5%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 15.7%
  • Population: 37,722

31. Walla Walla

Source: JohnnyH5 / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 13.6%
  • Median household income: $58,179
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 6.1%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 29.3%
  • Population: 33,842

30. Sunnyside

  • Poverty rate: 13.6%
  • Median household income: $49,134
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 8.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 8.2%
  • Population: 16,329

29. Port Townsend

  • Poverty rate: 14.0%
  • Median household income: $59,193
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 13.6%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 54.7%
  • Population: 10,161

28. Connell

Source: Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo / Moment via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 14.0%
  • Median household income: $61,000
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 11.5%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 9.8%
  • Population: 5,175

27. Bremerton

Source: Ceri Breeze / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 14.3%
  • Median household income: $68,556
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 4.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 25.9%
  • Population: 43,983

26. Ephrata

Source: searagen / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 14.7%
  • Median household income: $57,958
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 4.7%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 13.1%
  • Population: 8,419

25. North Fort Lewis

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 14.8%
  • Median household income: $67,708
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 2.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 33.7%
  • Population: 6,022

24. Lynnwood

Source: Colleen Michaels / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 14.9%
  • Median household income: $72,241
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 4.1%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 30.6%
  • Population: 39,867

23. Sedro-Woolley

Source: Edmund Lowe Photography / Moment via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 15.1%
  • Median household income: $72,281
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 4.5%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 16.4%
  • Population: 12,470

22. Grandview

Source: gmc3101 / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 15.1%
  • Median household income: $61,635
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 4.3%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 5.3%
  • Population: 10,922

21. Blaine

Source: JeffGoulden / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 15.3%
  • Median household income: $78,633
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 9.7%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 32.1%
  • Population: 5,865

20. Sequim

Source: Wirestock / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 15.4%
  • Median household income: $48,015
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 5.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 34.3%
  • Population: 8,073

19. Fort Lewis

Source: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 16.3%
  • Median household income: $51,679
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 0.7%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 22.7%
  • Population: 13,440

18. White Center

Source: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 16.4%
  • Median household income: $79,432
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 5.6%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 33.3%
  • Population: 15,479

17. Hoquiam

Source: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 16.4%
  • Median household income: $47,614
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 9.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 18.7%
  • Population: 8,742

16. Quincy

Source: Feng Wei Photography / Moment Open via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 16.6%
  • Median household income: $69,628
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 2.3%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 17.1%
  • Population: 7,754

15. Toppenish

  • Poverty rate: 16.6%
  • Median household income: $64,327
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 8.1%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 8.4%
  • Population: 8,820

14. Midland

Source: Arkyan / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 16.7%
  • Median household income: $69,653
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 6.6%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 14.6%
  • Population: 9,081

13. Rochester

Source: Adam Peterson / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 17.6%
  • Median household income: $92,883
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 0.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 14.7%
  • Population: 6,282

12. Mount Vernon

Source: july7th / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 17.7%
  • Median household income: $69,227
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 6.2%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 24.7%
  • Population: 35,120

11. Union Gap

Source: Cacophony / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 18.6%
  • Median household income: $55,667
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 11.3%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 5.3%
  • Population: 6,512

10. Clarkston

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Poverty rate: 18.7%
  • Median household income: $48,587
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 9.9%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 16.5%
  • Population: 7,222

9. Manchester

Source: JLR02 / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 19.5%
  • Median household income: $99,933
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 1.7%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 29.9%
  • Population: 6,033

8. Kelso

Source: jdornoff / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 20.0%
  • Median household income: $59,405
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 6.0%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 11.4%
  • Population: 12,661

7. Prosser

Source: Robert Holmes / Corbis via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 20.5%
  • Median household income: $64,622
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 10.3%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 25.8%
  • Population: 6,138

6. Aberdeen

Source: George Dodd / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 21.0%
  • Median household income: $50,008
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 6.3%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 16.6%
  • Population: 16,969

5. Airway Heights

Source: Will Maupin / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 21.3%
  • Median household income: $57,857
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 8.7%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 17.3%
  • Population: 10,570

4. Centralia

Source: dschreiber29 / iStock via Getty Images
  • Poverty rate: 21.6%
  • Median household income: $50,422
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 6.4%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 17.1%
  • Population: 18,234

3. Othello

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 21.9%
  • Median household income: $63,824
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 8.7%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 12.3%
  • Population: 8,582

2. West Clarkston-Highland

Source: Arkyan / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 25.0%
  • Median household income: $50,172
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 4.1%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 17.0%
  • Population: 6,080

1. Shelton

Source: Sean A. Lotz / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty rate: 26.5%
  • Median household income: $57,907
  • 5-yr. avg. unemployment rate: 5.2%
  • Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 19.1%
  • Population: 10,484
Rank Place Poverty rate (%) Median household income ($) Unemployment rate (%) Adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher (%) Total population
1 Shelton, Washington 26.5 57,907 5.2 19.1 10,484
2 West Clarkston-Highland, Washington 25.0 50,172 4.1 17.0 6,080
3 Othello, Washington 21.9 63,824 8.7 12.3 8,582
4 Centralia, Washington 21.6 50,422 6.4 17.1 18,234
5 Airway Heights, Washington 21.3 57,857 8.7 17.3 10,570
6 Aberdeen, Washington 21.0 50,008 6.3 16.6 16,969
7 Prosser, Washington 20.5 64,622 10.3 25.8 6,138
8 Kelso, Washington 20.0 59,405 6.0 11.4 12,661
9 Manchester, Washington 19.5 99,933 1.7 29.9 6,033
10 Clarkston, Washington 18.7 48,587 9.9 16.5 7,222
11 Union Gap, Washington 18.6 55,667 11.3 5.3 6,512
12 Mount Vernon, Washington 17.7 69,227 6.2 24.7 35,120
13 Rochester, Washington 17.6 92,883 0.4 14.7 6,282
14 Midland, Washington 16.7 69,653 6.6 14.6 9,081
15 Toppenish, Washington 16.6 64,327 8.1 8.4 8,820
16 Quincy, Washington 16.6 69,628 2.3 17.1 7,754
17 Hoquiam, Washington 16.4 47,614 9.9 18.7 8,742
18 White Center, Washington 16.4 79,432 5.6 33.3 15,479
19 Fort Lewis, Washington 16.3 51,679 0.7 22.7 13,440
20 Sequim, Washington 15.4 48,015 5.9 34.3 8,073
21 Blaine, Washington 15.3 78,633 9.7 32.1 5,865
22 Grandview, Washington 15.1 61,635 4.3 5.3 10,922
23 Sedro-Woolley, Washington 15.1 72,281 4.5 16.4 12,470
24 Lynnwood, Washington 14.9 72,241 4.1 30.6 39,867
25 North Fort Lewis, Washington 14.8 67,708 2.9 33.7 6,022
26 Ephrata, Washington 14.7 57,958 4.7 13.1 8,419
27 Bremerton, Washington 14.3 68,556 4.4 25.9 43,983
28 Connell, Washington 14.0 61,000 11.5 9.8 5,175
29 Port Townsend, Washington 14.0 59,193 13.6 54.7 10,161
30 Sunnyside, Washington 13.6 49,134 8.9 8.2 16,329
31 Walla Walla, Washington 13.6 58,179 6.1 29.3 33,842
32 Longview, Washington 13.6 57,920 4.5 15.7 37,722
33 Parkland, Washington 13.4 66,162 5.8 16.1 39,398
34 Tukwila, Washington 13.3 76,331 6.2 25.8 21,569
35 Lake Stickney, Washington 13.0 80,717 5.5 34.6 14,668

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