Income inequality is a growing problem in the United States. Perhaps more evident now than in any time in recent memory, conspicuous consumption is juxtaposed with abject poverty in cities and towns across the country. While the rich and poor often live side by side, in some American towns, serious financial hardship is a daily reality for most who live there.
In every state, there are towns where the median household income falls well below the state and national median incomes. In over a dozen states, there are towns in which the typical household earns less than half the income that a typical household statewide earns.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the median annual household income in every American town to identify the poorest town in each state. Even in wealthy states like Maryland and New Jersey there are towns that rank among the poorest in the country. For comparison purposes, census designated places, boroughs, cities, towns, and villages were all considered.
1. Selma, Alabama
> Town median household income: $23,283
> State median household income: $44,758
> Town poverty rate: 41.4%
> Town population: 19,650
The poorest town in Alabama, Selma also ranks among the 10 poorest towns in the United States. The typical household in the town earns just $23,283 annually, about half the income a typical household in the state as a whole earns. Some 41.4% of Selma’s 20,000 residents live below the poverty line, more than double the statewide poverty rate of 18.4% and the U.S. rate of 15.1%.
2. Ketchikan City, Alaska
> Town median household income: $53,937
> State median household income: $74,444
> Town poverty rate: 13.6%
> Town population: 8,189
With a median annual household income of $74,444 — nearly $20,000 more than the median income nationwide — Alaska is a relatively wealthy state. Even in the state’s poorest town, Ketchikan, the typical household earns $53,937 a year, in line with the typical American household income. Ketchikan’s 13.6% poverty rate is below the 15.1% U.S. poverty rate.
3. South Tucson, Arizona
> Town median household income: $20,241
> State median household income: $51,340
> Town poverty rate: 48.9%
> Town population: 5,627
South Tucson is the poorest town in Arizona and the fifth poorest town in the United States. The typical household in the town earns $20,241 a year, and nearly half of all town residents live in poverty. The town is one of only three in the United States in which over half of all households receive government assistance to afford groceries in the form of SNAP benefits.
4. Camden, Arkansas
> Town median household income: $25,581
> State median household income: $42,336
> Town poverty rate: 34%
> Town population: 11,515
The typical household in Camden earns $25,581 a year, the least of any town in Arkansas. Property values in an area often reflect incomes, and the median home value in Camden is just $70,900. In comparison, the typical American home is worth $184,700, and the median home across Arkansas is valued at $114,700.
5. Clearlake, California
> Town median household income: $25,426
> State median household income: $63,783
> Town poverty rate: 38.1%
> Town population: 15,070
With a median annual household income of $25,426, Clearlake is the poorest town in California. Higher education can open doors to higher paying jobs, and areas with fewer college-educated adults often have lower income levels. Just 9.1% of adults in Clearlake have a four-year college degree, less than a third of the statewide bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 32.9%.