It’s no secret that the pandemic has wreaked economic havoc around the country, spurring widespread unemployment. In fact, the poverty rate in the U.S. showed its biggest single-year increase last year since 1960 — the year the government first started collecting poverty statistics — according to poverty estimates released in December by financial experts at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and China’s Zhejiang University.
Between June and November alone, the overall poverty rate rose from 9.3% to 11.7%, despite the fact that the unemployment rate fell by 40% over that same period. According to the study, the rate was even higher for those without a college degree, for African-Americans, and for children under the age of 17 — about 2.3 million of whom fell into poverty during that same six-month span. You will be shocked at how many children live in poverty in your state.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services currently sets the poverty line at $12,880 per year for an individual, $26,500 per year for a family of four in the continental United States, with slightly higher numbers in Alaska and Hawaii. (These meager amounts are still substantially more than the average citizen makes in the 10 poorest countries in the world.)
Two of the ten poorest large cities in the country, measured by percentage of residents living below the poverty line, are in the Northeast — Philadelphia (23.3%) and Boston (17.1%). But the poorest places in the region are mostly small towns, like Deerfield, Mass. (pop. 621) or York Springs, Pa. (pop. 811).
Of the region’s 25 poorest places, eight are in Pennsylvania, while New York claims six, Maine has five, New Jersey has four, and Massachusetts and Vermont are home to one each. While there’s plenty of affluence in some parts of these states, other corners have limited economic opportunities and/or are home to historically marginalized populations — primarily African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.
Federal stimulus efforts might well help such places, but they will doubtless remain among the country’s most economically vulnerable locations.
To identify the poorest places in the Northeast, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the poverty rate — the percentage of all people who live in poverty — in the approximately 20,000 places with 500 or more residents using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
The areas reviewed include cities, towns, as well as unincorporated areas known as Census Designated Places, or CDPs. These are the 50 places with the highest poverty rates. Each area’s median household income and population totals also came from the ACS. All data are 5-year averages through 2019, and do not reflect impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We only considered places where less than 25% of the population are enrolled in college or graduate school.