Since the end of the Great Recession, the United States has achieved unprecedented economic growth and reached the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years. This economic growth, however, has disproportionately benefited the wealthiest Americans, leading to a rapid increase in income inequality and — in some parts of the country — worsening conditions for some of the poorest U.S. households.
While since 2011 the share of income earned by the top fifth quintile of households has risen, the share of income earned by the bottom fifth fell slightly. Income inequality is particularly severe in several states — including California, Massachusetts, and Texas — where there is at least one city where the median annual household income is below $40,000 and at least $100,000 less than the median household income in the wealthiest city in the state.
To determine the poorest city in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed median household incomes for the over 600 U.S. cities, towns, villages, municipalities, boroughs, and Census designated places with at least 65,000 residents using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. States in which there were no cities with at least 65,000 residents or with only one place with at least 65,000 residents were excluded from the analysis. Forty-three states fit our criteria.
One of the main determinants of income is educational attainment, as workers with more education are more likely to have high-paying, secure jobs. Nationwide, the typical college graduate earns $54,628 a year, more than twice the median earnings of $24,530 for those who did not graduate high school.
In many of the states on our list, the poorest city also has the smallest share of high school graduates in the state among places with at least 65,000 residents. For more on education, see America’s most and least educated states and the most educated city in every state.