Special Report

The 50 Poorest Places in the Country

Source: Kbh3rd / Wikimedia Commons

45. Birch Tree, Missouri
> Poverty rate: 60.9%
> Median household income: $14,766
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 9.7%
> Total population: 667

Birch Tree is a small city in southern Missouri. One of the poorest cities in the country, Birch Tree’s poverty rate stands at 60.9%, four and a half times greater than the national poverty rate.

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment. In Birch Tree, less than two in every three adults have a high school diploma or equivalent, and fewer than one in 10 have a bachelor’s degree. Nationwide, 88% and 32% of the 25 and older population, respectively, do.

44. Thoreau, New Mexico
> Poverty rate: 61.1%
> Median household income: $19,792
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 4.3%
> Total population: 1,641

Thoreau, New Mexico, is a Census designated place in the western part of the state within the Navajo Nation. Due to a number of historical and contemporary factors, Native American populations are more likely than the typical American to face serious financial hardship. In Thoreau, where 83% of the population identify as Native American, the poverty rate stands at 61.1%, higher than in the vast majority of American cities and towns.

Western New Mexico, where Thoreau is located, had been inhabited by Native Americans for more than 10,000 years when the U.S. military wrested control of the area in the 1860s.

43. Medina, Texas
> Poverty rate: 61.2%
> Median household income: $29,958
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 5.2%
> Total population: 4,727

Medina, Texas, a small unincorporated community west of San Antonio, is one of the poorest places in the United States. The local poverty rate stands at 61.2%, and most households earn less than $30,000 annually.

As is the case in many places on this list, educational attainment is low in Medina. About half of all area adults have a high school diploma or equivalent, and fewer than one in 10 have a bachelor’s degree. Nationwide, 88% and 32% of the 25 and older population, respectively, do.

Source: John_Brueske / Getty Images

42. Chelyan, West Virginia
> Poverty rate: 61.9%
> Median household income: $25,237
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 3.5%
> Total population: 994

Many cities and towns in West Virginia are struggling economically — but in few is poverty as prevalent as in Chelyan, a Census designated place south of Charleston. Nearly 62% of Chelyan residents live below the poverty line compared to just 13.4% of Americans nationwide.

Widespread poverty is due in part to a lack of economic opportunity. Only 22% of the 16 and older population in the area are even in the labor force — compared to 63.4% nationwide — and of them, an average of 62% have been unemployed in the last five years.

41. Brunswick, North Carolina
> Poverty rate: 62.1%
> Median household income: $18,056
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 6.5%
> Total population: 983

Brunswick is a town of about 1,000 people in southern North Carolina. With a 62.1% poverty rate, it is one of the poorest communities in the United States.

Like many other high-poverty areas, economic opportunities are relatively limited in Brunswick. Only 18.3% of the 16 and older population in the area are even in the labor force, and of them, an average of 7.3% have been unemployed in the last five years, compared to the 5.3% national five-year jobless rate.

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