American Cities With the Highest Poverty Rates
For the first time in nearly a decade, poverty is on the rise in the United States. The number of Americans living below the poverty line climbed from 38.4 million in 2020 to 41.4 million in 2021, a 7.9% increase. The rapid rise came after seven consecutive years of declines in the number of people living in poverty, and is the largest single-year increase since the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.
Currently, the federal poverty threshold stands at an annual income of $14,580 for an individual and $30,000 for a family of four, with slightly higher thresholds in Alaska and Hawaii. The consequences for those living in poverty are devastating and far reaching. And for the 12.2 million American children living below the poverty line, some negative effects can last a lifetime.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, the national poverty rate is 12.8%. In some major U.S. cities, however, the share of the population living below the poverty line is far higher.
Using metro area-level data from the 2021 ACS, 24/7 Wall St. identified the U.S. cities with the highest poverty rates. Metro areas are ranked on the share of the population living below the poverty line in 2021.
Among the 50 cities on this list, the poverty rate ranges from 18% to more than 29%. The majority of the metro areas with nation-leading poverty rates – 35 in total – are in the South, including eight in Texas, six in Georgia, and another six in Louisiana. (Here is a look at the poorest town in every state.)
Likely not surprising given the high levels of poverty in these metro areas, incomes are also relatively low in these areas. In every city on this list, most households make less than $65,000 a year, while nationwide, most households make over $69,000 annually. In fact, the majority of metro areas have among the 50 lowest median household incomes of the 386 metros considered.
Incomes, as well as financial security, tend to rise with educational attainment in the United States. In most metro areas on this list, fewer than one in every four adults have a four-year college degree, compared to more than one in every three adults nationwide. (Here is a look at the highest paying college majors.)
Click here to see the American cities where the most people live in poverty.
Click here to read our detailed methodology.
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