Special Report

This American City Has the Highest Poverty Rate

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The share of Americans living below the poverty line rose in 2022, reversing several years of historic progress. Much of the increase in real poverty was due to the expiration of safety net programs created or expanded during the pandemic, such as unemployment and nutrition benefits, rental assistance, and an expanded child tax credit.

According to new data from the Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey, the official U.S. poverty rate is 12.6%. In some major cities, however, the share of the population living below the poverty line is far higher. (Here are 25 ways the federal poverty rate doesn’t tell the whole story.)

To determine the American cities with the highest poverty rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed one-year poverty status data from the recent ACS. Nearly 380 metropolitan statistical areas were ranked based on the percentage of the population for whom the poverty status was determined as falling below the poverty line.

While the Sunbelt is the site of some of the fastest economic growth in the United States, a bulk of the country’s poorest cities are in the South. Of the 50 metro areas with the highest poverty rates, 33 are in the South, while 11 are in the West, and five in the Midwest. Binghamton, New York, stands out as the one metropolitan area in the Northeast with a poverty rate above 18.0%.

Many of the poorest cities nationwide struggle with chronic unemployment. Of the 50 cities with the highest poverty rates, 33 had average annual unemployment rates higher than 3.6% — the national figure in 2022. In the border city El Centro, California, where 22.6% of residents live in poverty, seasonal fluctuations in demand for agricultural workers and a downturn in Mexican tourism activity have resulted in a nation-leading unemployment rate of 14.7%. (See also: people are leaving these 50 American cities in droves.)

Another factor keeping earnings below the poverty line in America’s poorest cities may be low educational attainment. While income and financial security tend to rise with college attainment, the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is lower than the 35.7% national figure in 44 of the 50 cities with the highest poverty rates. In the Central Valley metro of Hanford-Corcoran, California, where 18.8% of the population lives in poverty, just 15.9% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, the fourth lowest college attainment rate of any metro nationwide.

Click here to see the American cities with the highest poverty rates.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

50. Bakersfield, CA
> Poverty rate: 17.9%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 6.9%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 19.7%
> Median household income: $66,234
> Total population: 916,108

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49. Hot Springs, AR
> Poverty rate: 17.9%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.8%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 9.6%
> Median household income: $53,145
> Total population: 100,089

48. Jonesboro, AR
> Poverty rate: 17.9%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 2.8%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 13.9%
> Median household income: $59,582
> Total population: 135,512

47. Gainesville, FL
> Poverty rate: 18.0%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 2.8%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 10.6%
> Median household income: $59,516
> Total population: 350,903

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46. Morgantown, WV
> Poverty rate: 18.2%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.5%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 12.1%
> Median household income: $56,132
> Total population: 141,041

45. Fort Smith, AR-OK
> Poverty rate: 18.2%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.3%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 15.9%
> Median household income: $49,980
> Total population: 246,751

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44. Visalia, CA
> Poverty rate: 18.2%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 8.2%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 24.3%
> Median household income: $64,722
> Total population: 477,544

43. Joplin, MO
> Poverty rate: 18.3%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 2.4%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 13.4%
> Median household income: $54,041
> Total population: 184,086

42. Anniston-Oxford, AL
> Poverty rate: 18.3%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.0%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 18.3%
> Median household income: $52,819
> Total population: 115,788

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41. Saginaw, MI
> Poverty rate: 18.4%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 5.6%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 19.7%
> Median household income: $53,646
> Total population: 188,330

40. Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN
> Poverty rate: 18.4%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 2.8%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 6.7%
> Median household income: $56,176
> Total population: 226,250

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39. Columbus, GA-AL
> Poverty rate: 18.5%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.6%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 16.9%
> Median household income: $54,106
> Total population: 324,416

38. Homosassa Springs, FL
> Poverty rate: 18.5%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.1%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 13.6%
> Median household income: $51,532
> Total population: 162,529

37. Bowling Green, KY
> Poverty rate: 18.5%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.7%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 13.1%
> Median household income: $59,629
> Total population: 184,636

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36. Binghamton, NY
> Poverty rate: 18.7%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.7%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 12.9%
> Median household income: $63,427
> Total population: 244,889

35. Mobile, AL
> Poverty rate: 18.7%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.2%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 17.2%
> Median household income: $54,313
> Total population: 428,780

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34. Fresno, CA
> Poverty rate: 18.7%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 6.4%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 22.7%
> Median household income: $69,571
> Total population: 1,015,190

33. Hanford-Corcoran, CA
> Poverty rate: 18.8%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 7.0%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 18.9%
> Median household income: $64,368
> Total population: 152,981

32. Muncie, IN
> Poverty rate: 18.8%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.5%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 12.8%
> Median household income: $54,087
> Total population: 112,031

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31. Chico, CA
> Poverty rate: 18.8%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.5%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 14.1%
> Median household income: $64,426
> Total population: 207,303

30. Goldsboro, NC
> Poverty rate: 18.9%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.0%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 26.1%
> Median household income: $55,588
> Total population: 117,286

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29. Cumberland, MD-WV
> Poverty rate: 18.9%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.0%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 21.3%
> Median household income: $54,618
> Total population: 94,122

28. Grants Pass, OR
> Poverty rate: 19.0%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 5.6%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 23.2%
> Median household income: $53,838
> Total population: 87,730

27. Harrisonburg, VA
> Poverty rate: 19.1%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 2.9%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 9.3%
> Median household income: $64,993
> Total population: 136,555

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26. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
> Poverty rate: 19.1%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.7%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 17.5%
> Median household income: $52,775
> Total population: 385,154

25. Champaign-Urbana, IL
> Poverty rate: 19.1%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.7%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 10.1%
> Median household income: $62,108
> Total population: 223,265

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24. Merced, CA
> Poverty rate: 19.3%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 7.7%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 20.2%
> Median household income: $66,164
> Total population: 290,014

23. Hammond, LA
> Poverty rate: 19.4%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.3%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 24.4%
> Median household income: $55,391
> Total population: 137,048

22. Pine Bluff, AR
> Poverty rate: 19.5%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 5.0%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 13.6%
> Median household income: $44,263
> Total population: 84,460

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21. Tallahassee, FL
> Poverty rate: 19.6%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.0%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 12.3%
> Median household income: $58,018
> Total population: 391,680

20. Charleston, WV
> Poverty rate: 19.7%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.9%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 19.0%
> Median household income: $53,157
> Total population: 250,554

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19. Beckley, WV
> Poverty rate: 19.8%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.0%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 20.8%
> Median household income: $52,633
> Total population: 112,369

18. Hattiesburg, MS
> Poverty rate: 20.0%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.5%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 14.8%
> Median household income: $54,560
> Total population: 172,263

17. Laredo, TX
> Poverty rate: 20.1%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.1%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 25.2%
> Median household income: $59,603
> Total population: 267,780

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16. Macon-Bibb County, GA
> Poverty rate: 20.1%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.5%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 19.9%
> Median household income: $52,574
> Total population: 235,805

15. Greenville, NC
> Poverty rate: 20.1%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.1%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 13.2%
> Median household income: $57,049
> Total population: 173,542

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14. Lafayette, LA
> Poverty rate: 20.2%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.4%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 19.0%
> Median household income: $50,837
> Total population: 481,125

13. Athens-Clarke County, GA
> Poverty rate: 20.6%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.0%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 11.2%
> Median household income: $61,978
> Total population: 220,191

12. Parkersburg-Vienna, WV
> Poverty rate: 20.8%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.2%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 17.5%
> Median household income: $55,222
> Total population: 89,559

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11. Florence, SC
> Poverty rate: 21.1%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.3%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 18.6%
> Median household income: $50,219
> Total population: 199,119

10. El Paso, TX
> Poverty rate: 21.3%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.3%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 21.1%
> Median household income: $53,359
> Total population: 871,323

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9. Texarkana, TX-AR
> Poverty rate: 21.6%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.3%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 17.6%
> Median household income: $48,230
> Total population: 144,322

8. Brownsville-Harlingen, TX
> Poverty rate: 22.3%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 5.7%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 26.4%
> Median household income: $50,649
> Total population: 425,208

7. El Centro, CA
> Poverty rate: 22.6%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 14.7%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 28.2%
> Median household income: $57,310
> Total population: 178,713

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6. Farmington, NM
> Poverty rate: 24.1%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.6%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 22.0%
> Median household income: $50,264
> Total population: 120,418

5. Madera, CA
> Poverty rate: 24.3%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 6.1%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 21.7%
> Median household income: $76,920
> Total population: 160,256

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4. Las Cruces, NM
> Poverty rate: 24.5%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 4.4%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 26.6%
> Median household income: $51,967
> Total population: 223,337

3. Monroe, LA
> Poverty rate: 24.9%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.7%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 22.1%
> Median household income: $44,507
> Total population: 202,869

2. Albany, GA
> Poverty rate: 26.2%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 3.8%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 27.5%
> Median household income: $48,376
> Total population: 146,387

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1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
> Poverty rate: 27.6%
> Unemployment rate, 2022: 6.5%
> Households receiving SNAP benefits: 29.5%
> Median household income: $49,142
> Total population: 888,367

Methodology

To determine the American cities with the highest poverty rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed one-year data on poverty status from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey. Metropolitan statistical areas (377) were ranked based on the percentage of the population for whom poverty status is determined that falls below the poverty line. 

Supplemental data on the percentage of households receiving food stamp or SNAP benefits, median household income, and total population also came from the 2022 ACS. Data on annual average unemployment in 2022 came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics program. Cities where 20% or more of the population is enrolled in college or graduate school were excluded.

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