Special Report

America's Richest and Poorest Cities

20. El Centro, CA
> Median household income:
$39,290
> Median home value: $156,000
> Unemployment rate: 23.7%
> Poverty rate: 23.7%

One of three metro areas located in California’s impoverished Central Valley, El Centro’s annual median household income, at just $39,290, is one of the lowest in the country. Low-income areas often have a less educated workforce. Just 67.3% of El Centro area adults have at least a high school diploma, 19.6 percentage points lower than the national figure. Unhealthy job markets can also dampen an area’s wealth. El Centro’s unemployment rate of 23.7% is the second highest in the country and far higher the national unemployment rate of 5.1%.

Those who work in the retail sector tend to have lower incomes than those who work in higher-paying fields. More than 16% of area workers are employed in retail occupations, the eighth highest share compared with other metro areas.

19. Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA
> Median household income:
$39,213
> Median home value: $120,100
> Unemployment rate: 5.6%
> Poverty rate: 18.2%

As in all of the poorest U.S. metro areas, the annual median household income in Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol — on the border of Tennessee and Virginia — is less than $40,000. By contrast, the typical American household earns $53,657 annually. About 18% of area residents live in poverty compared to the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

Low incomes are often associated with poor economic conditions in general. While the nation’s economic output grew by 2.2%. The metro’s annual economic output declined by 2% percentage points between 2013 and 2014.

18. Fort Smith, AR-OK
> Median household income:
$39,207
> Median home value: $106,700
> Unemployment rate: 5.4%
> Poverty rate: 23.4%

The typical Fort Smith metro area household makes just $39,207 a year, one of the lowest incomes in the country. Low-income areas often have a less educated workforce. Just 16.6% of Fort Smith adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, 13.5 percentage points lower than the national figure. Those who work in professional, scientific, and management jobs tend to have higher incomes than those who work in lower-paying fields. Only 5.7% of the Fort Smith employed population works in such a high paying sector compared to the 11.1% share of workers employed in the sector nationally.

17. Albany, GA
> Median household income:
$39,071
> Median home value: $104,400
> Unemployment rate: 7.4%
> Poverty rate: 25.3%

The typical Albany household makes just $39,071 a year, one of the lowest incomes in the country. Less than 1.3% of households in Albany earn $200,000 or more in a year, a far lower share than the 5.3% of American households earning such high incomes. At the same time, more than one in four people lives in poverty, one of the highest proportions in the country. More than 14% of households earn less than $10,000 annually, also one of the highest shares in the country of households in extreme poverty. The federal poverty level for a single-person household is $11,770, and many of these households earning less than $10,000 a year likely house multiple individuals. About 25% of Albany area residents rely on food stamps, the fourth highest share of any metro area in the country.


16. Johnson City, TN
> Median household income:
$38,813
> Median home value: $129,600
> Unemployment rate: 6.2%
> Poverty rate: 19.8%

Like in most especially poor areas, income is highly concentrated among the wealthiest Johnson City households. Nearly 25% of all income is earned by the wealthiest 5% of households, one of the highest concentrations of income in the nation. Meanwhile, a typical household in the metro area makes just $38,813 a year, one of the lowest incomes in the country. Also, about 20% of Johnson City residents live in poverty versus the national poverty rate of 15.5%.