Special Report

America's Poorest Cities

Steven Peters

U.S. median household income rose by $2,800 to $56,516 in 2015. This 5.2% gain is the largest increase since 1998. However, incomes have not fully recovered from the recession and are still lower from their 2007 levels when adjusted for inflation.

Many of America’s healthiest job markets, which have some of the most lucrative jobs in industries such as technology and finance, are clustered in the Northeast and West. By contrast, cities in other regions, particularly in Southern states, tend to have lower incomes. 24/7 Wall St. identified the poorest cities in America by reviewing median household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The typical household in all of the 25 poorest cities earns at least $15,000 less annually than the typical American household. The poorest metro is the Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas, area, where the median household income is only $34,074 a year.

Click here to see America’s poorest cities.

In addition to having fewer jobs in some of the most competitive industries, the poorest cities tend to have a higher share of residents who are unemployed, which further drives down median incomes. The jobless rate is higher than the national rate of 4.9% in 20 of the 25 poorest cities.

Completing a college degree is one of the best ways to access higher-paying job opportunities. Partially as a result, populations with higher educational attainment rates tend to have higher incomes. The percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is higher than the national attainment rate of 30.6% in only one of the 25 poorest cities.

Cities with low incomes also tend to have higher rates of poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau bases the poverty threshold on family size and composition. For example, the poverty threshold for a single individual under 65 years of age is an income of less than $12,082 a year. Nationwide, 14.7% of Americans live below the poverty line. All of the 25 poorest cities have a higher poverty rate. The poorest metro in America, Brownsville-Harlingen, also has the highest poverty rate of any U.S. metro area, with nearly one in three residents living below the poverty line.

Some of the poorest cities are becoming even poorer relative to the nation as a whole. Incomes are rising slower than across the country in all but five of the 25 cities on this list. In fact, despite such a large increase in median income nationwide, in 12 of the poorest cities median incomes declined since 2014. The typical household in Hinesville, Georgia, earns 14.1% less than in 2014, the largest income decline of any U.S. metro area.

To determine the poorest U.S. cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. We identified the 25 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas with the lowest median household incomes. Poverty rates, median home values, and educational attainment also came from the ACS. National income figures are from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are as of August 2016, the most recent period for which data is available.

These are the poorest cities in America.