To determine the town with the highest poverty rate in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the percentage of people living below the poverty line from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
We used census “place” geographies — a category that includes 29,573 incorporated legal entities and census-designated statistical entities. Of those, 29,319 had boundaries that fell within one of the 50 states, while the rest were in the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico.
We defined towns based on population thresholds — having at least 1,000 people and less than 25,000 people — and 13,332 of the places fell within these thresholds.
Towns were excluded if poverty rates were not available in the 2019 ACS, if the population living in poverty totaled less than 1,000, if 25% or more of a town’s population were enrolled in undergraduate, professional, or graduate school during the same period, or if the sampling error associated with a town’s data was deemed too high.
The sampling error was defined as too high if the coefficient of variation — a statistical assessment of how reliable an estimate is — for a town’s poverty rate was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean CV for all towns’ poverty rates. We similarly excluded towns that had a sampling error too high for their population determined to be living in poverty, using the same definition.
The remaining 12,143 places were ranked within their state based on their poverty rates. To break ties, we used median household income..
Additional information on the number of people living below the poverty line, median household income, and the share of households receiving SNAP benefits are also five-year estimates from the 2019 ACS.
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