Special Report

America's Poorest Cities

7. Cumberland, Md.
> Median household income: 35,211
> Population: 101,225
> Unemployment rate: 7.4% (152nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.6% (131st highest)

The typical rent in Cumberland was exceptionally low at just $486 per month in 2013, less than half the median monthly rent of more than $900 across the nation. Also, nearly 90% of adults in the area had completed at least high school as of last year, better than the national rate, and exceptionally high compared with other poor cities. Higher education attainment rates, however, were remarkably low. Just 16.5% of Cumberland adults had at least a bachelor’s degree as of last year, one of the lowest figures nationwide. While the median earnings for all individuals in the U.S. was well over $30,000 last year, the median earnings in the Cumberland area was just $21,627. Despite the area’s low-paying jobs, more than 88% of area residents had health insurance last year, better than the national coverage rate.

6. Valdosta, Ga.
> Median household income: $35,104
> Population: 143,947
> Unemployment rate: 7.9% (110th highest)
> Poverty rate: 26.9% (9th highest)

Nearly 27% of the Valdosta area’s population lived in poverty last year, one of the highest rates in the United States. Further, 13.6% of households earned less than $10,000 in 2013, also one of the highest rates nationwide. However, Valdosta experienced a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of residents who were uninsured, which fell from 21.9% in 2012 to 18% last year. Yet, an article by the Valdosta Daily Times stated that, recently, the percentage of patients at South Georgia Medical Center, a local area hospital, that are uninsured is on the rise.

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5. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
> Median household income: $35,098
> Population: 815,996
> Unemployment rate: 10.8% (21st highest)
> Poverty rate: 34.3% (the highest)

McAllen had the nation’s highest poverty rate last year, at more than 34% of the population. By comparison, even after climbing for years, the U.S. poverty rate was less than 16% in 2013. McAllen’s low incomes likely exacerbate other major problems in the area. McAllen had the highest percentage of residents without health insurance in the nation last year, at more than 36%. Further, nearly a third of households last year received food stamps, the highest rate in the U.S. These problems often compound one another. As part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning series for The Washington Post last year, reporter Eli Saslow documented how many residents in McAllen struggled to stretch food stamp dollars and often could not afford healthy foods, in turn worsening health outcomes for many residents.