Special Report

America's 26 Poorest Large Cities

The wage premium on city jobs is a well known if not completely understood fact in the U.S. economy. Leaving a small town for a big city is likely to lead to more job options at higher wages, and bigger cities tend to have more productive economies and higher-income residents.

The median annual household annual income in nearly all (17) of the 20 largest U.S. metro areas exceeds the national median household income of $74,755. The opposite is true in the 20 lowest-population metro areas–  the median household income surpasses the national figure in just two cities (Midland, Michigan, and Fairbanks, Alaska). These are the cities that attracted the most new residents last year.

The U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks this information, released its 2022 data for large geographic areas, including states, metropolitan areas, and mid- to large-sized cities on Sept. 14 this year. Amid a historic rise in the inflation rate, real median household income fell by 2.3% from $76,330 in 2021 to $74,580 in 2022. Between 2021 and 2022, inflation rose by 7.8% — the largest annual increase in the cost-of-living adjustment since 1981, according to the release. 

Which cities, even with the advantage a larger population size seems to offer, still trail most other cities in terms of the income of a typical household? To answer this question, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the median annual household income in the 192 metropolitan areas with a population of 250,000 or less (about half of the 382 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas considered by the 2022 American Community Survey). (Also see, people are leaving these 50 American cities in droves.)

These are America’s poorest metro areas. 

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