Alabama: Selma

Alabama River and Selma, cite of the 1965
Rex Wholster / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $90,200 (state: $137,200)
  • Poverty rate: 41.0% (state: 17.5%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 15.7% (state: 6.6%)

Best known for its role in the civil rights movement, including several marches over the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma was suffering from high unemployment long before the pandemic hit.

Even those with work are mainly low-wage employees; the median household income in Selma is $24,820.

The executive director of the local chamber of commerce told the Selma Times Journal that most businesses in the city are now family-owned, but the children of those families have no interest in sticking around.

That might have something to do with the lack of entertainment options in Selma. The city only has one movie theater with a single screen.

Alaska: Kalifornsky

Kalifornsky Beach Rd, Kenai, AK
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $247,000 (state: $265,200)
  • Poverty rate: 11.6% (state: 10.8%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 7.2% (state: 7.4%)**

This census-designated place of about 8,100 people in the Kenai Peninsula Borough is largely fueled by the oil and gas industry, like the state as a whole.

However, with oil companies like BP leaving for better prospects, Alaska has lost thousands of jobs over the past few years. Kalifornsky’s other major industries include timber and fishing.

The median household income in Kalifornsky is an impressive $88,984, but homes are very expensive. Kalifornsky also has no libraries or post offices of its own.

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Arizona: New Kingman-Butler

New Kingman-Butler, AZ
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $62,600 (state: $209,600)
  • Poverty rate: 28.0% (state: 16.1%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 15.9% (state: 6.5%)

This unincorporated community borders the city of Kingman in Mohave County but fares much worse than the city to the south.

The median household income in New Kingman-Butler is just $34,243, compared to $49,029 in Kingman. Only 7.7% of the population have their bachelor’s degrees, while the rate is about 10 percentage points higher in Kingman.

That’s not to say Kingman itself is a paradise. Residents say there’s little to do and few job opportunities besides unskilled labor and the local hospital. There is one major draw, though: its comparatively temperate weather and mountainous terrain make for great hiking trips.

Arkansas: Helena-West Helena

Helena-West Helena
Brandonrush / Wikimedia Commons
  • Median home value: $75,600 (state: $123,300)
  • Poverty rate: 41.7% (state: 17.6%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 12.2% (state: 5.5%)

Helena-West Helena may be the largest city in Phillips County, but it’s a city in the middle of a long decline.

The county has lost half its population over the last 65 years. Manufacturers including Mohawk Rubber Co. closed up shop, farmers suffered from drought and industrialization, and other businesses supporting these populations could no longer sustain themselves.

By 2016, the local school district in Helena-West Helena School District had half the students and funding it had in 2007, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported. Other public services are also under strain.

Former alderman Bruce Hudson, who ran for mayor with the slogan “Who Cares About Helena?”, blamed a lack of job opportunities and an abundance of shabby, unoccupied housing in the city. The median household income here is only $22,400.

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California: Muscoy

Muscoy, CA
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $236,800 (state: $475,900)
  • Poverty rate: 38.1% (state: 14.3%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 17.8% (state: 6.7%)

This small census-designated place in San Bernardino competes with the county seat for the title of poorest city in California.

Close to 40% of the population live below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate is about 10 percentage points higher than the state as a whole. The median household income here is $41,981 — not bad compared to some of the cities on this list, but rough for pricey California.

Residents say crime is a constant companion. While Muscoy isn’t listed in the available FBI data, San Bernardino County reported 1,500 violent crimes in 2019 — the same number as San Diego County, which has a million more people in it.

Colorado: Clifton

1st Snow on Mt. Garfield, Clifton, Colorado
Mad Squid Productions / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $138,100 (state: $313,600)
  • Poverty rate: 25.6% (state: 10.9%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 11.0% (state: 4.7%)

In this quiet Colorado town, over a quarter of the population live in poverty and the unemployment rate more than doubles the state rate. The median household income here is $43,452.

Some residents say drug use is a growing problem in the area. The surrounding Mesa County ranks below the state rate for opioid deaths — but in 2019, The Daily Sentinel reported a spike in drug-related deaths as doctors stopped prescribing as many opioids and users turned to street drugs like heroin instead.

Crime is also becoming a concern. Mesa County saw 164 violent crimes in 2019, considerably more than Weld county, which has more than twice the population.

Connecticut: Thompsonville

Mill worker housing, Thompsonville, Connecticut
Zachvs / Flickr
  • Median home value: $173,500 (state: $272,700)
  • Poverty rate: 25.5% (state: 10.0%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 9.3% (state: 6.5%)

The mills of “Carpet City” were once major suppliers of textiles until a series of closures, sales and consolidations decimated the industry in the mid-1900s.

Today the median household income in this Hartford County town is $80,125, but over a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.

The state has been dealing with a rise in drug overdoses, the Hartford Courant reports, with Hartford County responsible for the largest number in the most recent year of tracking: 1,590 of 4,505.

Delaware: Wilmington

Aerial view Wilmington Delaware Downtown City Skyline bus station and highways
Real Window Creative / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $169,400 (state: $244,700)
  • Poverty rate: 25.1% (state: 11.9%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 8.4% (state: 5.9%)

This might be Delaware’s biggest city but it’s also one of the poorest. Over a quarter of Wilmington residents live in poverty, and the median household income is just over $45,000.

That might be one reason why crime is rapidly outpacing police spending. Wilmington’s crime rate has jumped 148% since the mid-1990s, while police spending only increased 65%, according to the nonprofit Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Residents don’t have to go far to find better. The community of Pike Creek, just 10 miles to the west, was once called one of the 100 best places to live in the country by Money.

Florida: Avon Park

Avon Park Historic District: Old Jacaranda Hotel
Ebyabe / Wikimedia Commons
  • Median home value: $68,400 (state: $196,800)
  • Poverty rate: 33.0% (state: 14.8%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 19.9% (state: 6.3%)

Nobody is writing poems about this historic district in Highlands County, named after Shakespeare’s hometown.

The median household income in Avon Park is just $30,750, and a third of the population lives in poverty. Almost 20% are unemployed, which more than triples the state rate.

The tiny town offers little entertainment for young people or retirees, and everyone in between will struggle to find work to support themselves. If you can find a good reason to live there, housing is very affordable — though refinancing into a record-low rate is a far better way to reduce your monthly payments.

Georgia: Fair Oaks

Bingham Street, Fair Oaks, Georgia
Thomson200 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Median home value: $100,900 (state: $166,800)
  • Poverty rate: 32.6% (state: 16.0%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 8.1% (state: 6.4%)

This tiny census-designated area in Cobb County is named for its abundance of big oak trees, which is a good way to focus on the positive.

Beyond the local flora, Fair Oaks is characterized by low income and poor quality of life, with almost a third of the population living below the poverty line. The median household income is just $38,832, while the median home value is over $100,000.

Cobb County is one of the worst areas for affordable housing in all of Georgia, the Urban Institute reports. Its most recent data shows only 18 units of affordable housing for every 100 renter households living on an extremely low income.

Hawaii: Makaha

Beautiful bay view of a hotel overlooking the ocean. Great scenery of the mountains and skies in Makaha of Oahu Hawaii
Brannon_Naito / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $383,200 (state: $587,700)
  • Poverty rate: 28.0% (state: 9.9%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 16.7% (state: 4.5%)

Makaha, a small town on the island of O’ahu, normally draws plenty of tourists to its beautiful stretch of white sandy beach, but you might not want to live there.

The town’s median household income is almost $51,000 — high compared to other cities on this list but far from impressive in such an expensive state. Close to 30% of the population lives in poverty, and almost 17% is unemployed.

Under those conditions, it can be hard to keep a roof overhead. Hawaii has the second-highest rate of homelessness in the nation, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2019 report to Congress. Close to 7,000 people became newly homeless in O’ahu that year, says the Star Advertiser.

Idaho: Blackfoot

Train crossing bridge, Snake River, Blackfoot Idaho
Tucker James / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $124,100 (state: $192,300)
  • Poverty rate: 15.4% (state: 13.8%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 1.9% (state: 4.7%)

Blackfoot is home to the Idaho Potato Museum and the world’s largest potato chip, but its prosperous potato industry hasn’t kept its reputation out of the dirt.

The city largely depends on its agricultural industry — Bingham County produces 20% of all the potatoes in the state — so job opportunities in other fields are somewhat limited.

Ironically, the primary reason Blackfoot lands on this list is food insecurity. Nearly three-quarters of the country’s residents live in urban areas that are at least a mile from a grocery store or in rural areas that are at least 10 miles from one, 24/7 Wall St. reports.

That said, many residents are satisfied with the local economy and small-town feel. The median household income in Blackfoot is $48,750, and the unemployment rate is lower compared to the rest of the state.

Illinois: East St. Louis

An aerial view of a factory in East St. Louis, Illinois
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $52,200 (state: $187,200)
  • Poverty rate: 37.8% (state: 13.1%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 17.4% (state: 6.6%)

East St. Louis continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons, as it regularly tops lists of the most dangerous places in the country. In 2019, you were 27 times more likely to be murdered here than the national average.

Economically, the story in East St. Louis is the same as several other cities on this list. It’s still struggling to regain momentum after losing many of its businesses and residents in the 1960s and 1970s.

Almost 40% of the residents in East St. Louis live below the poverty line, and the median household income is just $24,343.

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Indiana: East Chicago

Chicago Avenue in East Chicago, Indiana
Dennisyerger84 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Median home value: $73,900 (state: $135,400)
  • Poverty rate: 32.5% (state: 14.1%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 12.3% (state: 5.4%)

East Chicago is home to Marktown, a neighborhood created in 1917 for employees of Clayton Mark’s steel pipe manufacturing firm. The historical and architectural oddity is perhaps the only town in the United States where cars park on the sidewalk and people walk down the street.

Unfortunately, that’s just about the only attraction. East Chicago has high poverty, high unemployment and low household incomes; the median here is only $32,839.

Some of the land in East Chicago is also polluted with high levels of lead and arsenic from its industrial past. In 2016, the mayor ordered the evacuation of the former West Calumet Housing Complex, which had been constructed on the grounds of a lead smelter.

Iowa: Denison

downtown Dension, Iowa
Billwhittaker / Wikimedia Commons
  • Median home value: $90,700 (state: $142,300)
  • Poverty rate: 16.0% (state: 11.7%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 10.7% (state: 3.9%)

Denison, the seat of Crawford County, has a respectable median household income of $54,190 but an unemployment rate that almost triples that of the state.

Many longtime residents and young people left Denison over the years as the city’s critical meatpacking plants cut wages. In the early 2000s, a flood of mostly Mexican immigrants arrived to take their place, happy to scoop up a still-substantial paycheck.

Yet these jobs haven’t been steady for them, either. In 2015, Tyson Foods closed its beef packing plant in the city, affecting 400 employees and triggering Denison’s economic disaster response plan.

Kansas: Junction City

Junction city house
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $138,700 (state: $145,400)
  • Poverty rate: 12.0% (state: 12.4%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 6.8% (state: 4.4%)

At first glance, Junction City doesn’t appear too different from the rest of Kansas. Unemployment is higher, but not by much, and the poverty rate is 0.4% below the state rate.

However, the city has been struggling to wade out of debt for years. Junction hovered close to bankruptcy in 2012, so officials made a plan to raise property and sales taxes, increase fees and reduce payroll and operating expenses. The city is still working to pay off its debts today.

As a result, residents say services are suffering and the cost of living has grown out of proportion with wages. The minimum wage in Kansas remains $7.25 per hour, while the median household income in Junction City is $53,932.

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Kentucky: Middlesboro

The city of Middlesboro, Kentucky, is one of the numerous cities and landmarks visible from the Pinnacle Overlook in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
William Silver / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $88,000 (state: $135,300)
  • Poverty rate: 40.6% (state: 17.9%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 8.1% (state: 6.1%)

Don’t expect to earn even a middling income in Middlesboro, the largest city in southeast Kentucky. The median household income in the city is only $25,488, around half the state median.

Over 40% of residents in Middlesboro live below the poverty line, and fewer than one in 10 have a bachelor’s degree.

Eastern Kentucky saw a huge drop in coal jobs in 2019, particularly after bankrupt energy company Blackjewel shut down and checks started bouncing. Some politicians and businesses have proposed growing the tourism industry by taking advantage of the region’s natural beauty and offering tours of abandoned coal mines, but those plans are a long way off.

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Louisiana: Bastrop

Bussey Brake Reservoir - Bastrop, Louisiana
Jarred Armfield / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $76,000 (state: $157,800)
  • Poverty rate: 47.9% (state: 19.4%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 7.3% (state: 6.9%)

Bastrop’s population has steadily declined since 2000, spurred by the loss of big employers like a century-old International Paper Co. mill and a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant.

"That was the industry that was viable, and no one had any reason to believe there was anything else. We use to talk about diversifying the economy, most communities do, but that was the horse we rode to get here," former mayor Clarence Hawkins told KNOE 8 News.

The current mayor, Henry Cotton, says that Bastrop will make a comeback — not by wooing new manufacturers but by growing local businesses and the technology industry. For now, though the median household income here stands at only $20,117.

Maine: Bangor

Franklin St. Bridge (Kenduskeag Stream Trail), Bangor, ME
EdwinWilke / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $150,700 (state: $184,500)
  • Poverty rate: 22.5% (state: 12.5%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 6.6% (state: 4.6%)

Considered the “lumber capital of the world” back in the 1800s, Bangor successfully redefined itself and is now a major commercial center for retail and service businesses in Maine, the local government says.

However, this new economy has yet to fully recover from the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.

More than a fifth of Bangor residents live below the poverty line, and while the city has the third-largest school district in Maine, more than half the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, says Bangor Daily News. The median household income here is $46,625.

Maryland: Lansdowne

Lansdowne, Maryland house
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $151,100 (state: $305,500)
  • Poverty rate: 27.9% (state: 9.4%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 10.1% (state: 5.6%)

While Baltimore often ranks as one of the poorest big cities, the small census-designated place of Lansdowne in Baltimore County has even worse problems.

The median household income is just $45,500; remember, Maryland has one of the highest costs of living in the U.S. The typical Lansdowne resident is about twice as likely to be unemployed and three times as likely to live in poverty as the typical Maryland resident.

Although the FBI does not report data for Lansdowne specifically, residents say the suburb hasn’t escaped Baltimore’s infamous crime rates. The surrounding county is one of the most dangerous in the U.S., with local police reporting more than 4,700 acts of violent crime in 2019.

Massachusetts: Southbridge Town

Old graveyard in a small town in New England with stonetombs. SOUTHBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETS. USA - NOVEMBER 17 2017.
Zoe Esteban / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $193,500 (state: $366,800)
  • Poverty rate: 19.2% (state: 10.8%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 8.1% (state: 5.4%)

Southbridge Town in Worcester County never reclaimed its former glory after the American Optical Company left in the 1990s. The former AO campus was once the world’s largest manufacturer of optometric products, according to the Telegram & Gazette.

The municipality has plans to redevelop the sprawling site and recently unveiled a trio of fountains paying tribute to the old campus. The switch used to turn them on was even made of reclaimed chunks of AO buildings.

Manufacturing remains the biggest industry in the region, despite its continuous decline. Greater Worcester has lost half its manufacturing jobs since 1990, the Worcester Business Journal reports.

Overall jobs numbers had been looking up, but a decade of growth came to a screeching halt in 2018 and 2019. The median household income here is $51,270.

Michigan: Beecher

Realtor.com Beecher, MI Real Estate
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $28,600 (state: $146,200)
  • Poverty rate: 38.4% (state: 15.0%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 23.1% (state: 6.5%)

Despite the cheap housing, young families probably want to steer clear of Beecher — and it has nothing to do with the fact that the deadliest tornado in Michigan history landed here years ago.

This suburb of Flint has the second-poorest school district in the state, says MLive, as families with children under the age of 18 have a median income of $17,247. (And the median household income among all families is just over $28,000.)

Only 9% of Beecher’s adults have a bachelor’s degree, and nearly a quarter are unemployed. As a result, close to 60% of its children live in poverty.

Minnesota: Cloquet

Cloquet is an Industrial Town in North East Minnesota on the St. Louis River
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $142,500 (state: $211,800)
  • Poverty rate: 14.9% (state: 10.1%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 5.9% (state: 3.9%)

The history of Cloquet is so deeply intertwined with the lumber industry that it’s come to be known as “Wood City” — even after its affinity for dry tinder fueled a fire that destroyed much of the area in 1918. (Thankfully, these days it's a lot easier to track down low-cost, high-coverage homeowner's insurance.)

For more than a century, Cloquet’s paper mill, matchstick plant and ceiling tile factory provided hundreds of jobs to Minnesotans, but that way of life seems to be on its way out.

Cloquet’s matchstick plant closed in 2017, and over the previous decade wood manufacturing jobs dropped by more than 30% and paper mill jobs declined by over 20% in Minnesota.

Outside the two remaining factories, residents say, job opportunities are few, and there’s not much to do besides explore nature. The median household income here is just over $54,000.

Mississippi: Natchez

antebellum home in Natchez Mississippi
Tom Fakler / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $108,000 (state: $114,500)
  • Poverty rate: 35.9% (state: 20.8%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 10.3% (state: 8.2%)

This town on the Mississippi River served as the state’s first capital, but its best days are far behind it.

More than an hour from the nearest interstate, Natchez has struggled to attract industry and has been losing young people since the 1990s, says Mississippi Today. The median household income is only $26,443.

Locals tell the media outlet that the remaining kids in the area aren’t engaged with school, and that doesn’t bode well for the future. The Natchez-Adams school district received a D grade from the Mississippi Department of Education in 2019.

Missouri: Spanish Lake

Spanish Lake home
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $98,000 (state: $151,600)
  • Poverty rate: 19.2% (state: 14.2%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 13.6% (state: 5.1%)

Spanish Lake devolved from a “beautiful suburbia” to an “apocalyptic ghost town where jobs are scarce, homes are foreclosed, education options are diminished and mass transit has been reduced to a crawl,” the St. Louis Beacon writes, describing a documentary on the area’s decline.

Middle-class families packed up and left en masse in the 1990s, triggering a sudden collapse of local businesses. Deindustrialization and the Great Recession didn’t help. Today, the median household income in Spanish Lake is a little over $37,000.

In fact, St. Louis County as a whole has seen incomes and populations decline over the past decade. IRS data shows a total of 440,000 people earning more than $10.64 billion moved into St. Louis County, but 492,000 people and $14.05 billion left.

Montana: Havre

A golden wheat field in Havre, Montana.
Jack Lambert / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $143,900 (state: $219,600)
  • Poverty rate: 17.7% (state: 13.7%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 7.1% (state: 4.2%)

In 2018 alone, this small city in Hill County lost three major stores — Kmart, Sears Hometown Stores and Herberger’s — and closed its Holiday Village Mall, dropping hundreds of employees.

Despite the area’s fairly diverse economy, residents were shaken by the chain of closures, The Havre Herald wrote in its series, “Is Havre Dying or Evolving?” The median household income here is $48,294, and unemployment and poverty are both higher than the state rate.

The Havre Herald itself died a couple years after but suggested Montana’s rich quality of life and the proliferation of remote work would see Havre through a difficult transition.

Nebraska: Alliance

Car Henge in Nebraska
bkp / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $109,800 (state: $147,800)
  • Poverty rate: 13.1% (state: 11.6%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 6.1% (state: 3.5%)

This small city in western Nebraska is an agricultural center and an important rail hub but lacks more diverse job opportunities, locals say.

Residents felt the sting when one of the city’s biggest employers, the BNSF Railway, cut dozens of jobs in May 2020 — a repeat of heavy losses during the 2008 recession. Railroads were already hit by a drop in demand for coal before the pandemic, so recovery could be a long way off.

The median household income in Alliance is a reasonable $48,805, but the unemployment rate almost doubles that of the state.

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Nevada: Pahrump

Thank you for visiting town of Pahrump, Nevada, USA road sign
MarieKaz / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $152,400 (state: $242,400)
  • Poverty rate: 16.6% (state: 13.7%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 9.8% (state: 6.9%)

This large, unincorporated town in Nye County is just an hour away from Las Vegas, and living there can certainly be a gamble. Residents warned homebuyers away from Pahrump after several properties sank into the ground.

The median home value in Pahrump is $152,400, almost $100,000 less than the state median, but homeowners reportedly spent thousands trying to save their homes from the unstable “puff dirt.”

The comparatively low median household income in Pahrump, at $47,535, is influenced by a large number of retirees and transient residents, the Nye County Communities Coalition told the Pahrump Valley Times. Almost a third of the population is 65 years of age or older.

New Hampshire: Manchester

Manchester downtown building including City Hall Plaza and Brady Sullivan Plaza with Merrimack River at the background aerial view, Manchester, New Hampshire, NH, USA.
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $217,100 (state: $252,800)
  • Poverty rate: 14.8% (state: 7.9%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 5.1% (state: 4.0%)

New Hampshire is a wealthy state, but homelessness remains a major concern in its largest city thanks to a lack of affordable housing.

New Hampshire has seen some of the biggest spikes in income inequality across the U.S, and almost 15% of the population in Manchester lives below the poverty line. Yet the median household income here is $60,711 — high compared to the other cities on this list.

Well-educated residents have fared well, while the decline of traditional industries like paper plants have left many working-class people unable to pay for the essentials.

New Jersey: Camden

Aerial of Camden New Jersey Sunset
FotosForTheFuture / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $82,700 (state: $327,900)
  • Poverty rate: 36.8% (state: 10.4%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 12.6% (state: 6.1%)

One of the poorest cities in the country, Camden has a long history of violence, corruption and drugs. Its reputation is so bad that in 2012 a former resident paid for a billboard urging people to “Say something nice about Camden.”

That’s easier said than done. No longer a major manufacturing hub — it once hosted RCA Victor, Campbell’s Soup and a major shipbuilder — Camden’s unemployment rate doubles that of the state, and almost 37% of the population lives below the poverty line. The median household income here is just $27,015.

Camden police reported 1,159 violent crimes in 2019, about as many as the New Jersey city of Paterson did — even though Paterson has twice the population.

New Mexico: Chaparral

High Chaparral in Northern New Mexico showing Sierra Grande and Capulin
TP Tuohy / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $71,200 (state: $166,800)
  • Poverty rate: 43.7% (state: 20.0%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 12.4% (state: 7.2%)

This desert town is an unincorporated community in New Mexico, with no local government of its own, limited access to public services and a lack of well-paying jobs.

Over 40% of Chaparral’s population lives in poverty. The median household income here is just $24,665; the main employers in the city are a prison and an immigration detention center, Searchlight New Mexico reports.

While the median home value in Chaparral is a little over $71,000, Searchlight New Mexico says most residents purchase land or mobile homes through real estate contracts instead of mortgages. These arrangements typically don’t require a good credit history or much of a down payment, the publication says, instead charging extremely high interest rates.

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New York: Newburgh

View of Newburgh riverfront from Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York.
Nancy Kennedy / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $170,900 (state: $293,000)
  • Poverty rate: 31.2% (state: 15.1%)

While the all-Hasidic town of New Square would take this spot statistically, the numbers don't account for the major cultural differences in the community.

The 2019 selection from 24/7 Wall St. is Newburgh, a city burdened with violent crime and high poverty. It comes as little surprise that the population has been slowly shrinking over the past decade.

Newburgh reported 317 violent crimes in 2019, a rate almost twice as bad as New York City on a per capita basis. And the number of residents in poverty surpasses 30% — twice as bad as the state’s figure.

North Carolina: Lexington

The beauty of snow in Lexington, North Carolina
NC Bubbles / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $106,000 (state: $165,900)
  • Poverty rate: 31.0% (state: 15.4%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 13.8% (state: 6.3%)

The seat of Davidson County was one of the furniture-making capitals of the U.S., thanks to a bountiful supply of hardwood and cheap labor, but lost much of its businesses to even cheaper Asian imports in the 1990s.

The median household income here is just under $30,000, and homes are considerably less expensive than the state median. Over 30% of the population lives below the poverty line, and close to 14% is unemployed.

Residents say that, without many jobs around, most people use Lexington as a low-cost bedroom community and commute to one of North Carolina’s larger cities.

North Dakota: Minot

Souris River flooding in Minot
US Army Corps of Engineers / Flickr
  • Median home value: $204,000 (state: $185,000)
  • Poverty rate: 10.5% (state: 10.9%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 2.7% (state: 2.8%)

North Dakota’s “Magic City” has lost some of its sparkle thanks to pricey housing — a problem in the state as a whole, according to a recent report.

The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency says 17.5% of North Dakota homeowners with an active mortgage and 10% of homeowners with no mortgage spend more than 30% of their income on housing expenses.

While the median home value is slightly higher than the rest of the state, at $204,000, so is median income at $66,000.

Many residents criticize the blistering cold winters, lack of entertainment and high property taxes, but the big reason 24/7 Wall St. cites for Minot’s place on the list is food insecurity. It says more than two in three people in the local county live in urban areas that are at least a mile from a grocery store or in rural areas that are at least 10 miles from one.

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Ohio: Middletown

This beautiful picture of the city blurred in the background was taken in historic Middletown, Ohio.
Sarah-beth / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $97,000 (state: $140,000)
  • Poverty rate: 25.4% (state: 14.5%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 9.7% (state: 5.8%)

Middletown, once a prosperous manufacturing hub thanks to the presence of employer AK Steel, has experienced a slow and steady decline for several decades. The steelmaker locked out nearly 2,700 workers in 2006, following hundreds of job cuts and a bitter contract dispute.

Former city manager Doug Atkins said some neighborhoods in Middletown approach 80% to 90% rentals, and most of the properties in them are run down and low value compared to surrounding communities.

Over a quarter of the city’s population live in poverty. The median household income is $40,347.

Oklahoma: Altus

Downtown Altus Historic District
Mainstreetaltus / Wikimedia Commons
  • Median home value: $99,200 (state: $130,900)
  • Poverty rate: 17.7% (state: 16.0%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 5.7% (state: 5.3%)

Home to the Altus Air Force Base, this city in Jackson County also relies on agriculture, health care and the turbulent fossil fuel industry to support its population.

Some of the best-paying work in Altus comes from oil and gas, but the industry in Oklahoma has shed more than 20,000 jobs over the last two years, with the sharpest drop during the pandemic. The state ended 2020 with 13 active rigs, down from 148 in 2018, the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma told reporters.

The median household income in Altus is a respectable $47,691, and its poverty and unemployment rates do not differ much from the rest of the state. However, 24/7 Wall St. docked points for food security. The site reports that an estimated 86% of Jackson County’s residents live in low-access areas — that’s more than a mile from a grocery store in urban areas or over 10 miles in rural areas.

Oregon: Altamont

Altamont Oregon home
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $144,700 (state: $287,300)
  • Poverty rate: 21.8% (state: 14.1%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 8.7% (state: 6.0%)

This census-designated place — named after a famous racehorse, according to legend — is falling well behind the rest of the pack.

Altamont is one of just three communities in the state where incomes are actually declining, OregonLive reports. Wages fell 5% between 2010 and 2018, only surpassed by Newport and St. Helens.

The median household income here is close to $47,000, compared to $63,000 statewide. A fifth of the population lives in poverty, and homes are only worth half of the state median.

Pennsylvania: Johnstown

Winter in Johnstown Pa
George Raymond Gibbs / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $39,700 (state: $174,100)
  • Poverty rate: 38.7% (state: 12.8%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 14.2% (state: 5.8%)

Johnstown, like many other cities in the Rust Belt, has been devastated by the rise of foreign trade and the decline of the manufacturing industry since the 1980s.

Thousands of residents have fled the town over the years, leaving plenty of blighted homes behind. The median household income here is only $24,561 — less than half the state median — and close to 40% of the population live below the poverty line.

Residents say “The Friendly City” hasn’t lost its geniality, but its significant drug and crime problems have certainly robbed Johnstown of some of its charm.

Rhode Island: Central Falls

Central Falls Congregational Church
Kenneth C. Zirkel / Wikimedia Commons
  • Median home value: $147,800 (state: $249,800)
  • Poverty rate: 32.8% (state: 13.1%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 7.3% (state: 6.1%)

The smallest city in the smallest state had to file for bankruptcy in 2010, hiking taxes while drastically cutting down on municipal employees and retiree pensions.

Central Falls lost its textile mills and factories along with the rest of the state, but high expenses and cuts in state aid drove it to insolvency. Reuters described boarded-up multi-family homes with overgrown sidewalks juxtaposed with stately churches and tidy bungalows.

Today, the median household income is still only around $33,000, and close to a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

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South Carolina: Parker

Chicago and Northwestern roundhouse in Huron, South Dakota.
Ammodramus / Wikimedia Commons
  • Median home value: $73,300 (state: $154,800)
  • Poverty rate: 32.0% (state: 16.0%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 6.8% (state: 6.4%)

This small suburb is suffering the effects of rapid population growth in Greenville County. Housing costs in the area are rising, and while the boom has brought work and wealth to some, wages are stagnant among the poorer residents of Parker.

The median household income in Parker is still about $34,000, and all of the gentrification is making it much harder to afford the essentials.

Close to half the renters in the Parker-Westcliffe neighborhood spent more than 35% of their income on rent, according to a study from the United Way of Greenville County. Back in 1990, less than 15% of renters spent that much.

South Dakota: Huron

Aerial View of Autumn Colors in Huron, South Dakota
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $89,900 (state: $159,100)
  • Poverty rate: 21.6% (state: 13.6%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 1.3% (state: 3.5%)

This meatpacking town in South Dakota’s Beadle County experienced an influx of refugees in recent years, drawn to job opportunities at Huron’s turkey processing plant. Before the facility opened, Huron’s population had dwindled from 14,000 in 1970 to 12,000 in 2005.

While there’s plenty of work available — the unemployment rate is just 1.3% — there’s not much else to do here, and the median wage for a meat packer is less than $14 an hour.

Despite a median household income of $46,106, a fifth of Huron’s residents live below the poverty line.

Tennessee: Knoxville

Knoxville Tennessee
Time Stood Still Photo / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $128,800 (state: $158,600)
  • Poverty rate: 26.2% (state: 16.1%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 5.9% (state: 5.9%)

Unlike many of the cities on this list, Knoxville has plenty to boast about: big companies, top schools, beautiful parks and a rich musical history.

Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access: In 2019, Bloomberg listed Knoxville as one of the worst in the nation for its widening income gap.

The median household income in Knoxville is around $40,000, and over a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. The local police department acknowledged in September 2020 that violent crime was escalating, as the city had seen 28 homicides by that point in the year, compared to 22 in all of 2019.

Texas: Robstown

Robstown, TX
Realtor.com
  • Median home value: $52,900 (state: $161,700)
  • Poverty rate: 41.1% (state: 15.5%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 20.0% (state: 5.4%)

You’re taking a gamble if you decide to live in the birthplace of Texas hold ’em.

This suburb of Corpus Christi in Nueces County ranks as Texas’s worst city to live in, thanks to poverty surpassing 40% and rampant drug use.

The median household income in Robstown is just $35,504 and a fifth of the population is unemployed, though some residents point to addiction as the real underlying issue. Nueces County has one of the highest overdose death rates in Texas, at 10.4 for every 100,000 people, says Caller Times.

Utah: Vernal

Dinosaur National Monument
Zack Frank / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $163,500 (state: $256,700)
  • Poverty rate: 20.8% (state: 10.3%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 8.8% (state: 3.9%)

Vernal in northeastern Utah depends heavily on its oil industry and suffers as demand for fossil fuels drops. The state’s crude production was expected to fall by 20% in 2020, with a further decline of 10% coming in 2021, according to the Utah Geological Survey.

Mother Jones says surrounding Uintah County has been the state’s main oil producer for over 70 years, but the drastic ups and downs of the industry have taken a toll on residents. That's why it's so important to stash enough money for at least three to six months of expenses in a high-interest savings account for emergencies.

The median household income is currently over $48,000, but a fifth of Vernal’s population live in poverty and the unemployment rate more than doubles that of the state.

Vermont: Barre

Active granite quarry in Barre Vermont
Liz Van Steenburgh / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $154,300 (state: $223,700)
  • Poverty rate: 26.6% (state: 11.2%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 6.3% (state: 4.1%)

This Vermont city — not to be confused with surrounding Barre Town — is known for its granite quarries but is also becoming increasingly recognized for its drug problem.

The Washington County state’s attorney said the city is experiencing a “drug epidemic” during a 2018 public forum and that crack cocaine and other illegal drugs are as prevalent as opiates.

Barre also experienced 64 violent crimes and 203 property crimes in 2019 — relatively high figures, considering the small population of 8,500.

The median household income in Barre is little over $38,000, and over a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

Virginia: Franklin

Beautiful  Snow in Franklin, West Virginia.
Kishore Maity / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $168,300 (state: $264,900)
  • Poverty rate: 16.2% (state: 10.9%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 15.0% (state: 5.0%)

This small city in Virginia’s Coastal Plain largely depends on agriculture and manufacturing to support its economy.

Like Bastrop in Louisiana, Franklin was badly bruised by the closure of a nearby International Paper mill, which laid off more than 1,000 workers in 2009. At the time, it employed nearly 4% of the workforce in Franklin and the surrounding counties, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The median household income isn’t abysmal, at just above $40,000, but the unemployment rate in Franklin triples that of the state as a whole.

Washington: Parkland

Parkland, WA, USA
Eric Friedebach / Panoramio
  • Median home value: $205,500 (state: $311,700)
  • Poverty rate: 16.7% (state: 11.5%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 9.4% (state: 5.3%)

This unincorporated suburb of Tacoma doesn’t have to deal with the age-old “Aroma of Tacoma” — an industrial stench that stills haunts the port city from time to time — but Parkland’s economic problems are even worse.

Its poverty and unemployment rates are well above those of the state, and only 17% of adults over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree. The median household income in Parkland is decent, though, at over $55,000.

Residents say the presence of Pacific Lutheran University is a cultural and economic boon for the community, but the benefit doesn’t extend far past the campus.

West Virginia: Huntington

Riverfront park in Huntington, West Virginia
River and Willow / Shutterstock
  • Median home value: $97,100 (state: $115,000)
  • Poverty rate: 32.7% (state: 17.8%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 7.2% (state: 6.7%)

Huntington may boast of its beautiful scenic views of the Appalachian Mountains, but the opioid crisis that rocked the city has sullied its reputation for years.

CNN reported in 2019 that at Cabell Huntington Hospital, the largest hospital in the city, one in five babies is born to a mother who used opioids while pregnant.

Almost a third of the local population lives below the poverty line. The median household income here is just $31,162, less than half the nationwide median.

Wisconsin: Beloit

Downtown Beloit
Mark's Postcards from Beloit / Flickr
  • Median home value: $87,400 (state: $173,600)
  • Poverty rate: 24.1% (state: 11.9%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 9.4% (state: 4.0%)

Beloit, like the rest of Wisconsin, used to be a thriving hub for the manufacturing industry but lost tens of thousands of jobs following the Great Recession.

The median household income in Beloit is $43,651, but almost a quarter of the population lives in poverty, and the unemployment rate more than doubles the state as a whole.

The small city of about 37,000 also has one of the worst crime problems per capita of any city in the state. In 2019, Beloit suffered four homicides, 31 robberies, 122 burglaries and 71 car thefts.

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Wyoming: Rawlins

State Penitentiery, Rawlins Wyoming
Stuart and Jen Robertson / Flickr
  • Median home value: $162,800 (state: $213,300)
  • Poverty rate: 13.2% (state: 11.1%)
  • 5 yr. avg. unemployment: 4.4% (state: 4.5%)

Demand for fossil fuels is dropping, and many believe Wyoming’s ability to bank on its deposits may be coming to an end. This city in the middle of Carbon County is suffering the effects, leading to its appearance on the 24/7 Wall St. list.

Rawlins’ financial figures don’t differ much from the rest of the state. Its median household income is $64,336, just slightly higher than Wyoming as a whole.

Wyoming is the nation’s largest coal producer, but most of the state’s coal gets mined from the Powder River Basin up north. While southern Wyoming has billions of tons deep within the ground, companies have decided it’s too expensive to mine right now.

Industry issues aside, some residents consider the small town charming, but others bemoan the lack of recreational activities.

About the Author

Serah Louis

Serah Louis

Staff Writer

Serah Louis is a staff writer with MoneyWise. She loves storytelling and research and was published in Ricepaper Magazine's 2019 anthology, Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction.

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