The U.S. Census Bureau released in December the latest five-year estimates from the American Community Survey, an ongoing nationwide demographic snapshot that collects social, economic, and housing characteristics from millions of households every year.
Among many findings of the five-year ACS estimates are the U.S.national median household annual income from 2017 through 2021 reached $69,021, a 10.5% increase from $62,460 reported in the 2012-2016 period, adjusted for inflation. Similarly, the five-year poverty rate decreased to 12.6% from 15.1% in the previous nonoverlapping five-year period. However, those national figures do not reflect the large disparities between wealthy and poor communities.
Nearly three-fourths of U.S. counties in the 50 states and District of Columbia have median household incomes lower than the national median, while about 13% of counties have higher median household incomes, reflecting a significant geographic disparity in wealth. To identify the poorest towns in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of median household income from the recent five-year estimates of the ACS.
The poorest town nationwide is the one that ranks as poorest in Texas, Carrizo Hill. This community of 1,100 people is near the U.S.-Mexico Border 117 miles southwest of San Antonio and has a median household income of $9,111. (Also see states where the most people live below the poverty line.)
Nineteen of the poorest towns in every U.S. state have median household incomes under $20,000, while 35 of the 50 states have median incomes below $30,000. Median home values in these 50 poorest communities range from $44,600 in Alorton, Illinois, near St. Louis to $263,500 in Storrs, Connecticut, 32 miles east of Hartford.
People in most of these towns – defined as incorporated legal entities or census-designated statistical areas with between 1,000 to 25,000 population – are less likely to have a college diploma compared to statewide averages.
Still, residents in 10 of these towns are more likely to have a college degree compared to others in their state, but those areas tend to be located within or near college campuses where many low-income college students reside. These towns include Storrs; Livingston, Alabama; and University Park, New Mexico. (These are 50 cities with huge populations living on food stamps.)
These college-adjacent, low-income communities also tend to have fewer recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits ( previously known as food stamps) compared to their statewide averages. However, 40 of the 50 poorest communities in their state have at least double the share of SNAP recipients than their statewide averages. Eleven of these towns have more than four times the share of food-aid recipients, led by Jonesville, Virginia, where 48% of the 1,313 local residents collect government food assistance compared to the statewide average of 8%.
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