Special Report

The Poorest Town in Every State


To determine the poorest town in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of median household income 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 then excluded if median household income figures were not available in the 2019 ACS, 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 for a town’s median household income estimate was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean CV for all towns’ median household income estimates. We similarly excluded towns that had a sampling error too high for their population estimates, using the same definition.

The remaining 12,235 places were ranked within their state based on median household income. We used mean household income from the ACS to break ties.

Additional information on poverty, educational attainment, median home value, and population are also five-year estimates from the 2019 ACS.

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