Special Report

The Counties Where the Most People Live Below the Poverty Line

Methodology

To determine the counties with the highest poverty rates in the nation, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the percentage of people who live below the poverty line from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Of the 3,220 counties or county equivalents, 3,142 had boundaries that fell within one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia.

Counties were excluded if poverty rates were not available in the 2019 ACS, if the population living below the poverty line was 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 county’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 county’s poverty rate was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean CV for all counties’ poverty rates. We similarly excluded counties that had a sampling error too high for their population, using the same definition.

The remaining 2,985 places were ranked based on their poverty rates. 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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