Special Report

The Poorest Places in the Country

Since hitting a multi-decade peak of 15.9% in 2011, the annual poverty rate in the United States has been steadily improving. Though the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession may ultimately drive poverty back up, there are communities all over the United States where poverty is so prevalent that it touches nearly the entire community.

For the vast majority of Americans, the federal poverty line is set at an annual income of $12,880 for an individual, and $26,500 for a family of four. In dozens of American cities and towns, well over half the population live below that income threshold. 

Using five-year average poverty rates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the poorest places in the country. We included all cities, towns, villages, and unincorporated areas known as Census designated places, or CDPs, with populations of at least 500 people in our analysis. Places like college campuses and military bases were excluded as income data can be skewed in these areas.

In each of the communities on this list, the poverty rate exceeds 60%. Many of these poor areas tend to have several other socioeconomic characteristics in common as well. Often, they have limited economic opportunities, which discourages many to the extent that they exit the labor force as evidenced by low labor force participation in these areas. Unemployment, too, is often high. Additionally, educational attainment levels are typically very low in these places, further limiting job and earnings opportunities. Many of these areas have relatively small shares of  high school and college-educated adults. Here is a list of the most educated cities in every state

Many of these communities are also home to large populations of demographic groups that, for a variety of historical, social, and economic reasons are among the most likely to be financially disadvantaged and lack access to opportunity in the United States. These groups include Native Americans and Hispanic and Latino Americans. Here is a list of the states with the most Indian reservations and tribal areas.

Click here to see poorest places in the country.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.