America’s Richest and Poorest Cities

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The Poorest Cities in America

25. Auburn-Opelika, AL
> Median household income:
$39,932
> Median home value: $156,000
> Unemployment rate: 5.5%
> Poverty rate: 27

The typical household in the Auburn-Opelika, Alabama metro area earns just $39,932 a year, well below the national median of $53,657. Most income nationwide is earned through employment, and higher concentrations of low-paying jobs often explain an area’s low income levels. More than 15% of the Auburn employed population works in the traditionally low-paying retail sector, versus 11.5% of workers nationwide. Similarly, the relatively high-paying professional, scientific, and management industry employs only 6.4% of the area workforce, compared to 11.1% nationally. Fairly low incomes likely contribute to higher poverty rates in the area. About 28% of area residents live in poverty, the seventh highest poverty rate in the country.

24. Burlington, NC
> Median household income:
$39,576
> Median home value: $133,700
> Unemployment rate: 5.7%
> Poverty rate: 18.3%

The typical Burlington household makes just $39,576 a year, one of the lowest incomes in the country. About 18% of the metro area’s residents live in poverty, higher than the national poverty rate of 15.5%. As in most poor U.S. areas, Burlington metro area residents have relatively low levels of education. While more than 30% of adults nationwide have at least a bachelor’s degree, just over 20% of Burlington area adults have a college education.


23. Las Cruces, NM
> Median household income:
$39,502
> Median home value: $135,600
> Unemployment rate: 7.5%
> Poverty rate: 29.6%

The typical household in Las Cruces, a city just north of El Paso on the U.S.-Mexico border, makes just $39,502 a year, one of the lowest household incomes in the country. A strong majority of Las Cruces residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. And while the group’s high school dropout and college attainment rates have improved considerably in recent years, Hispanics still trail other demographics in college attainment. Similarly, just 79.4% of Las Cruces adults have at least a high school diploma, 7.5 percentage points lower than the national figure. Low educational attainment often correlates with higher poverty in a given area, and Las Cruces is no exception. About 30% of Las Cruces residents live in poverty, nearly double the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

22. Beckley, WV
> Median household income:
$39,498
> Median home value: $93,600
> Unemployment rate: 8.3%
> Poverty rate: 17.4%

The typical Beckley, West Virginia household makes just $39,498 a year, one of the lowest annual incomes in the country. Low-income areas often have a less educated workforce. Just 17.4% of Beckley adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, 12.7 percentage points lower than the national figure. An area’s wealth is also often tied to the health of its job market. Beckley’s unemployment rate of 8.3% is the 14th highest in the country and much higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.1%. Those who work in professional, scientific and management occupations tend to have higher incomes than those who work in lower-paying fields. Only 5.5% of Beckley workers are employed in this high-paying sector, less than half the national share of 11.1% of workers, likely contributing to the lower incomes overall.

21. Muncie, IN
> Median household income:
$39,323
> Median home value: $88,300
> Unemployment rate: 5.4%
> Poverty rate: 21.9%

The typical Muncie, Indiana household makes just $39,323 a year, one of the lowest household incomes in the country. Small economies can limit opportunities for residents and detract from an area’s wealth. With a metro GDP of $3.5 billion, Muncie has one of the smallest economies of any metro area. About 22% of Muncie residents live in poverty, well above the national poverty rate of 15.5%. More than one in 10 households earn less than $10,000 a year — the federal poverty level for a household of one is $11,770 — one of the highest shares nationwide. Low incomes in the area contribute to a less valuable housing market. While roughly 10% of homes nationwide are valued at less than $50,000, 22.4% of homes in the Muncie metro have such low values, one of the highest such proportions among all U.S. metro areas.