America’s Poorest Towns

The United States ranks firmly among the wealthiest countries in the world. Still, not all Americans share in the country’s prosperity. Compared to other wealthy nations, the U.S. has a high degree of income inequality, evidenced, in part, by the millions of Amerians suffering under conditions of abject poverty. (Here is a look at the countries with the worst wealth inequality.) 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, the typical American household earns an estimated $64,994 annually. In dozens of small towns across the country, however, most households are earning only a fraction of that amount.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed ACS data on median household income for nearly 13,000 communities nationwide to identify America’s 50 poorest towns. For the purposes of this story, towns are defined as places with populations between 1,000 and 25,000. 

Among the towns on this list, median household incomes range from $20,750 on the upper range down to less than $12,500 on the lower end. Similarly, in each town on this list, the poverty rate is more than double the national rate of 12.8% – even topping 60% in some cases. 

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment in the United States, and in most towns on this list, the share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is less than half the 32.9% national share. Even for those with college degrees, employment opportunities are scarce in many of these places. Only 14 of the 50 poorest towns have a five-year average unemployment rate below the 5.3% national average, and in 30 towns, the five-year average unemployment rate exceeds 10%. (Here is a look at the states where job openings are disappearing right now.

The towns on this list span the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast – though the majority of these places are located in the South, including 10 in Louisiana alone. 

Click here to see America’s poorest towns. 

Click here to read our detailed methodology. 

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