Special Report

Poorest Town in Every State

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Alabama: Selma
> Median household income: $24,820 (state: $48,486)
> Poverty rate: 41.0% (state: 17.5%)
> Median home value: $90,200 (state: $137,200)
> Population: 18,804

Selma, a small central Alabama city of about 19,000 people, ranks as the poorest place in the state. The typical Selma household earns just $24,820 a year, only about half the median household income of $48,486 across the state. Lack of economic opportunity in the area may be pushing people out. Over the last five years, Selma’s population fell by nearly 8%.

Black Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to live in poverty in the United States, and more than 80% of the city’s residents are black, one of the highest shares of any place in the state.

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Alaska: Ketchikan
> Median household income: $59,132 (state: $76,715)
> Poverty rate: 12.6% (state: 10.8%)
> Median home value: $237,700 (state: $265,200)
> Population: 8,224

Alaska is one of the states with the highest household incomes in the country. The typical Alaskan household earns nearly $77,000 per year, $16,000 more than the typical American household nationwide. Even in Ketchikan, the poorest place in the state, the typical household earns $59,132 a year, in line with the median household income nationwide of $60,293.

Ketchikan residents are also less likely to live below the poverty line than most Americans. The city’s 12.6% poverty rate is slightly lower than the comparable 14.1% national poverty rate.

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Arizona: Douglas
> Median household income: $34,154 (state: $56,213)
> Poverty rate: 29.3% (state: 16.1%)
> Median home value: $94,500 (state: $209,600)
> Population: 16,453

Douglas is a small city of about 16,500 in southern Arizona along the U.S.-Mexico border. The majority of households in Douglas earn less than $35,000 a year. Meanwhile, across Arizona, most households earn more than $56,000 annually.

Property values in Douglas reflect the area’s low incomes. The typical area home is worth just $94,500 — less than half the value of the typical home in the state of $209,600.

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Arkansas: Bald Knob
> Median household income: $30,810 (state: $45,726)
> Poverty rate: 31.3% (state: 17.6%)
> Median home value: $81,900 (state: $123,300)
> Population: 2,891

Arkansas ranks as one of the poorest states in the country, with a median household income of just $45,726 — nearly $15,000 less than the national median annual household income. In Bald Knob, a city of about 3,000 residents about 60 miles northeast of Little Rock, the typical household earns just $30,810 annually — about half the amount the typical American household earns.

With low incomes, a larger than typical share of the population depends on government benefits to afford basic necessities. About 25% of area households receive SNAP benefits, nearly double the 12.7% share of households across Arkansas.

Source: Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia Commons

California: Orange Cove
> Median household income: $25,660 (state: $71,228)
> Poverty rate: 47.8% (state: 14.3%)
> Median home value: $129,000 (state: $475,900)
> Population: 9,564

Orange Cove is a small city of approximately 9,600 residents in Fresno County. The typical Orange Cove household earns just $25,660 a year, nearly one-third of the statewide median household income of $71,228 and less than half the national figure of $60,293.

One of the main determinants of income is educational attainment. In Orange Cove, just 44.6% of adults have a high school diploma — the fourth smallest share of any small community in California and among the smallest of any city nationwide. By comparison, the statewide high school attainment rate among adults is 82.9%.

Colorado: Lamar
> Median household income: $37,554 (state: $68,811)
> Poverty rate: 22.4% (state: 10.9%)
> Median home value: $87,500 (state: $313,600)
> Population: 7,606

Colorado is a relatively high-income state, with most households earning at least $68,811 annually, about $8,000 more than the national median income. Not all parts of the state have higher incomes, however. In Lamar, a small municipality near the state’s eastern border, most households earn less than $38,000 per year.

The area’s lack of economic opportunity may be pushing people out of Lamar. In the last five years, the city’s population has contracted by 3.4%. Meanwhile, Colorado’s population grew by 8.0% over the same period.

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