Special Report

Cities Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty in Every State

In most of the United States, an individual with an annual income of $12,760 or less is classified as living below the poverty line. Though the share of the population living on such low incomes has fallen considerably in recent years, there are still 43.5 million Americans living in poverty — a number that will likely climb as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the U.S. economy, and continues to threaten businesses and livelihoods. Here is a look at job losses across the 50 states in the first three months of the pandemic

Americans living below the poverty line face a wide range of unique challenges with many struggling to afford basic necessities such as food, housing, and health care. Other challenges include increased stress and often worse than average health outcomes. These problems can be compounded for those who live on poverty level incomes in communities of concentrated poverty — defined as Census tracts where 40% or more of the population live below the poverty line. 

In these concentrated-poverty neighborhoods, crime rates tend to be higher, education outcomes tend to lag, and job opportunities can be limited. Each of these factors makes it more difficult for the poorest Americans to climb out of poverty. Nationwide, 9.6% of the 43.5 million people living below the poverty line also reside in communities of concentrated poverty. 

To identify the cities hit hardest by extreme poverty in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Census data on the share of the population living below the poverty line in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods in each of the nation’s 383 metropolitan areas. All data — including unemployment — is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey

Metro areas were excluded if concentrated poverty Census tracts had a college or graduate school enrollment rate of 25% or higher as large student populations can skew the actual severity of financial hardship in a community. Due in part to the presence of college and university students, not every state has a metro area with extreme poverty. 

Just because a city ranks on this list does not mean its extreme poverty rate is high relative to the U.S. as a whole. There are several metro areas on this list with extreme poverty rates below the 9.6% national rate. 

In many of the metro areas on this list, however, the high concentrated poverty rate also coincides with a high overall poverty rate. Many of these cities also have among the lowest median incomes in the country. Here is a look at America’s poorest metro areas.

Click here to see the cities hit hardest by extreme poverty in every state
Click here to read our methodology