30 American Ghost Towns

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Detailed Findings

The ZIP codes on this list generally fall into one of two broad categories. The first category is the poor urban neighborhood. These areas are generally concentrated in Rust Belt cities characterized by poor economic conditions and often high crime rates. The ZIP codes on this list that fall into that category include two in Baltimore, two in Detroit, two in Flint, Michigan, and five in Gary, Indiana.

Poverty rates in those neighborhoods are all more than double the 15.1% national rate and range from 31.7% to 49.7%. Property values also are depressed. Nearly across the board, median home values in these areas are worth less than half the nationwide median value of $184,700.

In these areas, long-term industrial declines have wiped out job opportunities and given way to a shrinking population and reduced demand for housing. These neighborhoods often are also in relatively dangerous cities, and high vacancy rates can be both product of and breeding ground for crime.

The second category of neighborhoods on this list are vacation areas. Unlike the inner-city ZIP codes, the high vacancy rates in these areas are likely seasonal. These neighborhoods are often coastal and include parts of the Carolinas along the Atlantic and Florida communities along the Gulf coast. There are also some rural Midwestern ZIP codes that likely fall into this category.

Home values in these areas are generally high, with the typical home often worth over half a million dollars. These areas are popular tourist destinations, and as such have an uncommonly high share of vacation homes and rental properties. Vacancy rates likely drop precipitously during peak tourist season in these areas.

Methodology

To identify America’s 30 ghost towns, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the share of single family homes and condos that are unoccupied in 15,957 ZIP codes. Occupancy status was determined by ATTOM Data Solutions using tax assessor data for the end of the third quarter in 2018. Median household income, median home value, poverty rates, and SNAP recipiency at the ZIP code level are all five-year estimates from the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and are for the most recent year available. Five-year population changes from 2011 to 2016 are also from the ACS. Violent crime rates and homicide rates at the metro area level are from the FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Report.