Incomes in the United States are far from uniform. A typical household in Scarsdale, New York earns nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year, or more than 13 times the income of a typical household in Macon, Mississippi of $18,232.
Incomes also vary within each state. No matter how rich a state is on average, it has some very poor towns — towns where incomes are much lower than incomes of not only the state’s richest towns, but also than the median income statewide. In every state, there is at least one town with a median annual household income thousands of dollars lower than the state’s median. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the poorest town in each state.
In general, towns in wealthier states tend to be wealthier, and towns in poorer states tend to be poorer. Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, is home to the poorest town. Incomes in the poorest towns in Alaska and Hawaii, each among the five wealthiest states, are only slightly less than the national median of $53,657 a year.
Some states have much more economic diversity. Many of the wealthiest states are also home to the poorest places not just in the state, but also in the country. Median incomes in Cumberland, Maryland and Camden, New Jersey are more than $40,000 lower than the typical household annual income across the state.
The vast majority of the poorest towns in the country have a disproportionately high share of eligible workers who are jobless. In 40 states, the unemployment rate in the poorest town is greater than statewide jobless rate. A high share of households that are not currently earning a salary likely drives down the median income for an area. A weaker economy in general, where more people are unemployed, can also drive down salaries in a number of ways — even for those residents with jobs.
Socioeconomic indicators such as low educational attainment rates can also help explain the low incomes in many of these towns. One important measure is the college attainment rate. A more educated population is more likely to be employed and to have access to higher-paid jobs. The poorest towns in only three states have a college attainment rate that exceeds the national rate of 30.1%.
To identify the poorest town in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed median household incomes in every town with a population of 25,000 or less in each state from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). Due to relatively small sample sizes for town-level data, all social and economic figures are based on five-year estimates for the period of 2010-2014. Still, data can be subject to sampling issues. We did not consider towns where the margin of error at 90% confidence is greater than 10% of the point estimate of both median household income and population. Towns were compared to both the state and national figures. We considered the percentage of residents who have at least a bachelor’s degree, the towns’ poverty rates, and the workforce composition — all from the ACS. The percentage of housing units that owned by their occupants — referred to as the homeownership rate — also comes from the ACS. Because poverty rates can be skewed in areas with high shares of college students who frequently have very low incomes, college towns were also excluded. College towns are defined as towns where more than 40% of the population is enrolled in undergraduate or graduate school.
These are the poorest towns in each state.