Special Report

Poorest City in Every State

Source: Airtuna08 / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas: Kansas City
> Median household income: $45,391 (state: $62,087)
> Poverty rate: 22.2% (state: 11.4%)
> Median home value: $99,700 (state: $163,200)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 19.3% (state: 34.0%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 5.7% (state: 3.8%)
> Population: 152,818

The typical household in Kansas City, Kansas, earns just $45,391 a year, the least of any city in the state by at least $5,000. In some cities in Kansas, like Olathe, most households earn over $90,000 a year.

A weak job market may partially explain the low median income in Kansas City. The average unemployment rate in the area in 2019 was 5.7% — well above the 3.8% statewide jobless rate.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Kentucky: Bowling Green
> Median household income: $42,164 (state: $52,295)
> Poverty rate: 23.3% (state: 16.3%)
> Median home value: $183,600 (state: $151,700)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 33.1% (state: 25.1%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 5.8% (state: 4.8%)
> Population: 70,542

The $42,000 median annual household income in Kentucky is $10,000 lower than the statewide median and over $23,000 lower than the U.S. median household income of $65,712. Bowling Green also has the state’s highest poverty rate, at 23.3%, and the highest unemployment rate, at 5.8%.

Though it is the poorest city in Kentucky, the median home value in Bowling Green is over $180,000, more than $30,000 more than the state’s median home value. Also unlike many of the other cities on this list, Bowling Green has a higher bachelor’s degree attainment rate, at 33.1%, than the state as a whole.

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Louisiana: Lake Charles
> Median household income: $37,894 (state: $51,073)
> Poverty rate: 26.7% (state: 19.0%)
> Median home value: $155,600 (state: $172,100)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 26.7% (state: 25.0%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 5.1% (state: 5.5%)
> Population: 78,395

Lake Charles is the only city in Louisiana where most households earn less than $40,000 a year. Residents are also far more likely to live below the poverty line than people in Louisiana. The poverty rate in the city stands at 26.7%, compared to the 19.0% statewide poverty rate.

Real estate values are typically indicative of what local residents can afford. In Lake Charles, the typical home is worth $155,600, compared to the median home value across the state as a whole of $172,100.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Maine: Portland
> Median household income: $61,779 (state: $58,924)
> Poverty rate: 12.0% (state: 10.9%)
> Median home value: $334,200 (state: $200,500)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 57.4% (state: 33.2%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 3.1% (state: 3.5%)
> Population: 66,218

Portland is the only city in Maine for which the Census ACS has 2019 data, and it ranks as the poorest city in the state by default only. In fact, the typical household in the city earns an income of $61,779 a year — about $3,000 more than the typical Maine household.

Unlike many of the other cities on this list, Portland is home to a relatively well-educated population. Over half of all adults in the city have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to about one-third of all adults in Maine.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Maryland: Baltimore
> Median household income: $50,177 (state: $86,738)
> Poverty rate: 20.2% (state: 9.0%)
> Median home value: $179,100 (state: $332,500)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 33.3% (state: 40.9%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 7.3% (state: 4.5%)
> Population: 593,490

Baltimore is by far the poorest city in Maryland. The typical household in Baltimore earns $50,177 annually. The next poorest city in the state is Glen Burnie, where the typical household earns $83,883 annually. Residents of Maryland’s poorest city are also more than twice as likely as the typical Maryland resident to live below the poverty line.

The relatively large share of low-income households in Baltimore is likely attributable in part to a weak job market. The city’s annual unemployment rate stands at 7.3%, well above the 4.5% state jobless rate.