The American economy has made considerable inroads, but it is still to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic. Many Americans owe months of back rent, and millions face an unstable job situation or ongoing unemployment. Worse still, different aids and laws enacted to assist Americans through COVID-19 are set to expire in coming months. For example, some pandemic unemployment benefit programs are set to expire in September, while the moratorium on eviction is set to expire in October. If neither is extended, many more Americans could find themselves in dire economic circumstances.
This could mean that the U.S. poverty rate, which was 12.3% in 2019, would likely increase. And in historically impoverished metropolitan areas that were reportedly affected disproportionately by the virus, the poverty rate could rise even more.
To determine the metros with the highest poverty rates in the nation, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed one-year estimates of the percentage of people who live below the poverty line in each metropolitan area from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
For reference, the 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.
In comparison to the 2019 poverty rates, the 50 metros on this list have poverty rates of at least 17.9% and as high as 27.3%.
People struggling with poverty can be found all over the country, but the places where poverty is especially common are concentrated in three regions — the West, the Midwest, and notably the South, which is home to 30 of the 50 metropolitan areas on this list. The state of Texas is home to seven of the 50 metros on this list, followed by Louisiana, with six.
While poverty rates do not correspond perfectly with median incomes, counties with higher poverty rates tend to have lower incomes. They also tend to have higher shares of residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formerly known as food stamps.