4. Albany, Ga.
> Median household income: $34,756
> Population: 156,277
> Unemployment rate: 8.9% (58th highest)
> Poverty rate: 24.9% (15th highest)
Like most poor metro areas, Albany residents struggled with poverty. Nearly one in four people lived below the poverty level last year, among the higher rates nationwide. More than 15% of households earned less than $10,000 last year, double the national figure, and more than in any other metro area in the country. Nearly 20% of owner-occupied homes in the area were worth less than $50,000 in 2013, also nearly double the national rate, and among the higher proportions in the nation. Low incomes and high poverty likely explains the high reliance on food stamps among area residents. Nearly 27% of households received SNAP benefits last year, more than in all but three other metro areas.
3. Pine Bluff, Ark.
> Median household income: $34,665
> Population: 96,415
> Unemployment rate: 10.0% (28th highest)
> Poverty rate: 24.4% (16th highest)
Unemployment in the Pine Bluff metro area was exceptionally high last year, at more than 10%. Despite the high unemployment and low incomes in Pine Bluff, less households in the area fell into the lowest income classification in 2013 than in prior years. Between 2009 and 2013, the percentage of households with incomes of $10,000 per year or less fell from 13.8% — at the time the eighth highest figure in the nation — to 9.6%. Still, more than 24% of Pine Bluff’s population lived below the poverty line, one of the highest poverty rates nationally, while jobs have been hard to come by. According to the BLS, total employment in the area has been steadily declining since late 2006. As of August, there were just 34,200 nonfarm employees in the area, down from over 42,000 in late 2006.
2. Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas
> Median household income: $34,374
> Population: 417,276
> Unemployment rate: 10.1% (25th highest)
> Poverty rate: 32.5% (2nd highest)
Brownsville, Texas is among the nation’s most destitute metro areas. More than 32% of people had incomes below the poverty line in 2013, a higher proportion than in every metro area except for neighboring McAllen. Residents were also among the most likely Americans to go without health insurance, with 32.4% of residents reporting no coverage in 2013, more than in all but two other metro areas. The area is also one of just a few where the unemployment rate was above 10% last year, and Brownsville area residents were particularly reliant on food stamps. More than 29% relied on SNAP benefits last year, the third-highest proportion in the nation.
1. Sebring, Fla.
> Median household income: $33,811
> Population: 97,616
> Unemployment rate: 8.2% (88th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.8% (103rd highest)
With a median household income of $33,811, Sebring residents are the poorest in the nation. Low incomes may be due in part to poor rates of educational attainment. Just 15.1% of residents had completed at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, roughly half the national rate and among the lowest nationwide. The value of area homes — another measure of a region’s financial well-being — was also particularly low. Nearly 29% of local owner-occupied homes were worth less than $50,000 in 2013, nearly the highest proportion nationwide. The low home values are could be discouraging outsiders and area residents from purchasing property, as 7.6% of homeowner inventory was vacant and for sale last year, the highest such rate in the country.