Special Report

America's Richest (and Poorest) Cities

America’s 10 Poorest Cities

10. Pine Bluff, Ark.
> Median household income: $36,127
> Population: 97,798 (20th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.2% (77th highest)
> Poverty rate: 24.4% (17th highest)

The median household income in Pine Bluff was just over $36,000 in 2012, more than $15,000 less than the nationwide median last year. Additionally, more than 24% of residents lived below the poverty level, while the area unemployment rate in 2012 was 9.2% — both above the respective nationwide rates of 15.9% and 8.1%. Further, 9% of Pine Bluff households had less than $10,000 in total income in 2012, among the worst rates in the nation. But not all news out of the area has been negative. According to The Pine Bluff Commercial, reported crimes in the city during the first nine months of 2013 declined by 15% from the same period in 2012.

9. Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla.
> Median household income: $36,061
> Population: 298,110 (159th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.7% (176th highest)
> Poverty rate: 22.6% (32nd highest)

Fort Smith has a rich frontier heritage, and has served as the setting for several famous Western movies, including True Grit and Hang Em’ High. However, the reality of Fort Smith today is less glamorous. The area’s median income was barely over $36,000 in 2012, down by more than $5,000 since 2008. Last year the nationwide median was over $51,000. According to The Southwest Times Record, a recent survey showed Fort Smith residents viewed the city’s job market and economy as weaknesses, however, they also cited quality of life as its greatest strength.

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8. Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.
> Median household income: $35,645
> Population: 101,968 (26th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.0% (155th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.3% (181st highest)

As of 2012, 6.6% of the U.S. workforce worked in finance, insurance, and real estate related jobs. Nearly 11% worked in the professional and scientific industries. In Cumberland, the percentage of residents employed in these traditionally high-paying jobs was half the national rate. For scientific and professional industries, the percentage of workers decreased significantly from 2008. The area may also lack the educational attainment, on aggregate, needed to attract higher paying jobs. Last year, just over 15% of Cumberland metro area adult residents had a college degree, barely half the national rate of 29.1% and lower than all but a few other metro areas. The proportion of people earning incomes below the poverty line increased from 11.6% in 2008 to 16.3% last year.

7. Monroe, La.
> Median household income: $34,809
> Population: 177,781 (137th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.0% (129th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 25.9% (11th highest)

Last year more than one quarter of the Monroe area population lived below the poverty line, one of the highest proportions in the nation. Monroe households were among the most likely in the nation to earn $10,000 per year, as well. As of 2012, 23% of the population was uninsured, one of the highest percentages in the nation. According to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, since Louisiana has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 60% of uninsured, non-elderly adults in the state fall into a “coverage gap,” which means that “their income is above current Medicaid eligibility but below the lower limit for Marketplace premium tax credits.”

6. Albany, Ga.
> Median household income: $34,469
> Population: 155,019 (111th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.6% (64th highest)
> Poverty rate: 26.9% (8th highest)

Over 12% of households in Albany brought in under $10,000 annually, the second-highest rate in the country, and more than double the national rate. Albany also has among the highest poverty rates in the U.S. Nearly 27% of the population lived below the poverty line last year, well in excess of the national rate of 15.1%. According to a report from WALB in Albany from earlier this year, gang activity is thriving in the city. Albany officials say the problem is related to high unemployment and poverty rates.