Special Report

Cities Where the Most People Live Below the Poverty Line

More than 60% of Americans will spend at least a year of their lives in poverty, according to a recent analysis conducted by a professor of social welfare at Washington University. Since COVID-19 reached the United States in early 2020, the financial situation of millions of Americans has deteriorated, even as a number of the nation’s wealthiest saw their fortunes increase by billions of dollars

Many Americans owe months of back rent, and many still face an unstable job situation or ongoing unemployment. In a recent survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 27% of Americans surveyed said that it was somewhat difficult or very difficult to afford their usual expenses. Based on 2019 figures, the most recent year of available data, 12.3% of Americans live below the federal poverty line. In some parts of the U.S., poverty rates are considerably higher, including a number of places with rates well in excess of 30.0%.

To determine the cities with the highest poverty rates in the nation, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year poverty rate estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. For reference, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services sets the official poverty threshold at an annual income of no more than approximately $26,000 for a family of four. 

The 50 cities on this list, which have a poverty rate of 28.7% or higher, can be found in 16 states, with the vast majority located in the Northeast, the Midwest, or the South. New York and Ohio are tied for having the most of the 50 cities on this list, with six each.  

While poverty rates do not correspond perfectly with median incomes, states with higher poverty rates tend to have lower incomes. These states of course also tend to have higher shares of residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formerly known as food stamps. 

Click here to see the cities where the most people live below the poverty line.
Click here to see our detailed methodology.