Special Report

Poorest City in Every State

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Oklahoma: Lawton
> Median household income: $46,886 (state: $54,449)
> Poverty rate: 20.4% (state: 15.2%)
> Median home value: $116,700 (state: $147,000)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 20.8% (state: 26.2%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 8.0% (state: 4.4%)
> Population: 93,026

Lawton, a small city in southern Oklahoma, ranks as the poorest city in the state with a median annual household income of $46,886. In most cities in the state, the median household income exceeds $50,000.

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, and not only is Lawton the poorest city in the state, but also the city with the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rate. Just 20.8% of adults in Lawton have a four-year college education, compared to 26.2% of adults across the state as a whole.

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Oregon: Eugene
> Median household income: $51,269 (state: $67,058)
> Poverty rate: 17.3% (state: 11.4%)
> Median home value: $329,000 (state: $354,600)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 42.6% (state: 34.5%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 7.1% (state: 5.0%)
> Population: 172,614

The typical household in Eugene, Oregon, earns $51,269 a year, about $16,000 less than the median annual household income across the state as a whole.

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, and the cities on this list tend to have relatively small college-educated populations. Eugene is a notable exception, however. Home to the University of Oregon, Eugene has a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 42.6%. For context, only 33.1% of adults nationwide have a four year degree, and only 34.5% of adults in Oregon do. The large student population in Eugene likely skews the city’s median household income downward.

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Pennsylvania: Erie
> Median household income: $35,798 (state: $63,463)
> Poverty rate: 28.5% (state: 12.0%)
> Median home value: $91,200 (state: $192,600)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 22.3% (state: 32.3%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 7.8% (state: 4.5%)
> Population: 95,537

The typical household in Erie earns just $35,798 a year, nearly $28,000 less than the median household income of $63,463 across all of Pennsylvania. Lower-income areas tend to also have lower property values, and Erie is no exception. Most homes in the area are worth just $91,200 or less — over $100,000 below the statewide median home value of $192,600.

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Rhode Island: Providence
> Median household income: $50,097 (state: $71,169)
> Poverty rate: 22.6% (state: 10.8%)
> Median home value: $237,200 (state: $283,000)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 33.2% (state: 34.8%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 6.9% (state: 4.2%)
> Population: 179,875

The typical household in Providence earns $50,097 a year, less than every other city in Rhode Island and about $25,000 less than the median household income in Warwick, a smaller city about 10 miles south of the state capital.

As is often the case in the cities on this list, unemployment is far more common in Providence than it is across the rest of the state. An estimated 6.9% of the local labor force were unemployed in 2019, compared to 4.2% of the labor force in all of Rhode Island.

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South Carolina: Columbia
> Median household income: $47,386 (state: $56,227)
> Poverty rate: 22.5% (state: 13.8%)
> Median home value: $201,500 (state: $179,800)
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 45.9% (state: 29.6%)
> 2019 unemployment rate: 4.2% (state: 4.7%)
> Population: 131,323

Columbia, the South Carolina capital, ranks as the poorest city in the state. The city’s median household income of $47,386 is the lowest of any South Carolina and its 22.5% poverty rate is the highest.

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, and the cities on this list tend to have relatively small college-educated populations. Columbia is a notable exception, however. Home to the University of South Carolina, Columbia has a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 45.9%. For context, only 33.1% of adults nationwide have a four year degree, and only 29.6% of adults in South Carolina do. The large student population in Columbia likely skews the city’s median household income downward.