America’s Poorest Cities

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Detailed Findings

While the unemployment rate is approaching record lows in the United States, joblessness remains high in many low-income American cities. Just seven metro areas on this list have a lower July unemployment rate than the 3.9% national rate.

The weak job market and low incomes in cities on this list are likely partially attributable to the cities’ low educational attainment rates. High-paying companies that offer high-skilled jobs will often establish operations in cities with a well-educated population, and are less likely to move to areas with low educational attainment. Gainesville, Florida — home to the University of Florida — is the only metro area on this list home to a larger share of college-educated adults than the national 32% college attainment rate. In almost half of the metro areas on this list, fewer than one in five adults have a four-year college education.

Cities with low median incomes also tend to have higher concentrations of residents facing serious financial hardship. The Department of Health and Human Services sets the poverty level at an annual income of $25,100 for a family of four in the contiguous 48 states. Every metro area on this list has a higher poverty rate than the 13.4% national rate.

A greater prevalence of serious financial hardship often means a greater need for government assistance. In 39 of the 42 metro areas on this list, a larger share of residents rely on SNAP benefits — also known as food stamps — than the 11.7% national share.

Property values tend to mirror income levels, and real estate is relatively inexpensive in America’s poorest cities. Grants Pass, Oregon is the only metro area with a median income below $45,000 where the typical home value exceeds the national median home value of $217,600. In seven metro areas on this list, over half of all homes are worth less than $100,000.

Methodology

To determine the poorest cities in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey. We identified the 42 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas with median annual household incomes below $45,000. Poverty rates, median home values, SNAP recipiency rates, and educational attainment rates also came from the ACS. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are seasonally adjusted for July 2018, the most recent period for which data is available.