Special Report

Poorest Town in Every State

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Washington: Kelso
> Median household income: $37,450 (state: $70,116)
> Poverty rate: 27.4% (state: 11.5%)
> Median home value: $133,900 (state: $311,700)
> Population: 11,983

Washington is one of the highest income states in the country. The typical household in Washington earns $70,116 per year, nearly $10,000 more than the typical American household. Not all parts of the state are high income, however. In Kelso, a small city in southwestern Washington, the typical household earns just $37,450 a year. The higher-income parts of the state tend to be concentrated further north, around Seattle.

West Virginia: Kenova
> Median household income: $33,938 (state: $44,921)
> Poverty rate: 19.3% (state: 17.8%)
> Median home value: $75,700 (state: $115,000)
> Population: 3,095

Kenova, a small city of 3,100 residents, is situated on the border of all three states, and its name is a portmanteau of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Like many cities in the Rust Belt, Kenova experienced economic and population decline over the past few decades in tandem with the nation’s shrinking coal and steel industries. Since 1970, Kenova’s population has fallen from a peak of 4,860 to 3,095 today.

The typical Kenova household today earns just $33,938 a year, less than the state median household income of $44,921 and the national median of $60,293. The typical home is worth just $75,700, far less than the state median home value of $115,000 and less than half the national median value of $204,900.

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Wisconsin: Whitewater
> Median household income: $34,563 (state: $59,209)
> Poverty rate: 39.0% (state: 11.9%)
> Median home value: $164,500 (state: $173,600)
> Population: 14,766

Whitewater, the poorest small city in Wisconsin, is home to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The concentration of college students, most of whom not working full time, likely skews several socioeconomic measures.

For example, incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, but that is not the case in the city. In Whitewater, 33.5% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, well above the 29.5% of adults across the state, but the median household income in the city of $34,563 is well below the $59,209 statewide median. In general, college towns tend to have lower incomes despite a well-educated population.

Wyoming: Riverton
> Median household income: $51,033 (state: $62,268)
> Poverty rate: 13.3% (state: 11.1%)
> Median home value: $162,600 (state: $213,300)
> Population: 11,069

The typical household in Wyoming earns about $62,268 a year, about $2,000 more than the national median household income of $60,293. Additionally, residents of cities in towns across Wyoming are far less likely to be struggling financially than most Americans. In Riverton, the poorest place with a population between 1,000 and 25,000 in the state, the median household income is $51,033 — more than the median income in some states, including Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Additionally, despite ranking as the poorest small city in the state, Riverton’s poverty rate of 13.3% is below the national 14.1% poverty rate.

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