The 10 Poorest Cities In America For 2021


We used science and data to determine where the poorest 1% live in America.

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Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the poorest cities in America. This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment — don’t freak out.

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America is pretty diverse. There’s rich people, poor people, and in-between people (most of us)

Even within a major city, you can turn a corner and go from nice to blight in less than a block.

We’re not judging. We’re just being observant is all.

But where do you go if you want to see the poorest people in the nation? We’re not talking about individuals. We mean, specifically, which parts of the country.

The general assumption is going to be large city centers with a lot of blight and crime. Yes, we took that into account, but you also have to assume the poorest cities in America are going to be where people don’t have jobs, and where people who DO have jobs earn meager salaries – at least for the most part.

So, what’s the poorest big city in America according to the data? Per the most recent ACS data, the poorest city in America is Detroit, MI.

The richest city in America? That would be Centennial, CO.

To see exactly how we calculated these rankings, read on.

Or if you’re simply not interested in reading about crime and blight, and you don’t care about this list, check out:

The 10 Poorest Cities In America For 2021

Detroit, MI

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 674,841
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $30,894
Unemployment Rate: 15.7%
Poverty Rate: 35.0%
More on Detroit: Crime | Cost Of Living

Detroit – what else can we say. You’re literally the poorest, least employed and most poverty stricken place in the nation. And that’s despite the fact, that people keep saying Detroit is getting better. Of course, you could talk about the decline of Detroit starting when car companies pulled out of town. That’s part of it. You could spend an entire article talking about what happened in Detroit, but today, you can buy houses for $1, about 60% of the population is gone, and it’s straight rough in most parts.

Why Detroit? Chicago, Philly, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Cincinnati were all somewhat spared. And other rust belt towns like Pittsburgh and St. Louis – and heck even Cleveland, aren’t doing THAT bad.

Fact is, Detroit has a TON of catching up to do if it wants to somewhat resemble an actual American city at some point down the road.

Cleveland, OH

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 385,282
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Income: $30,907
Unemployment Rate: 13.2%
Poverty Rate: 32.7%
More on Cleveland: Crime | Cost Of Living

Cleveland is straight broke. 32.65% of the city is poverty stricken, and the average family lives just outside of poverty. If you live there, this isn’t new news.

At least the Cleveland sports teams have been taking people’s minds off of being in the poor house. And there’s theaters, nice restaurants opening up and national orchestras in town – despite those being traditionally wealthy forms of entertainment. Can anyone weigh in on if a majority of Cleveland residents can afford to do these things?

Apparently, though, the more you look online, the more optimistic you see Clevelanders talking about how their city is improving each year. That’s great news, Cleveland. Like the other cities on this list, we’re pulling for ya. And best of all, Cleveland – at least you’re not Detroit.

Dayton, OH

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 140,569
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Income: $32,540
Unemployment Rate: 10.7%
Poverty Rate: 30.6%
More on Dayton: Crime | Cost Of Living

There once was a guy from Dayton
His life he tried to straighten
In 2003,
He got a degree
Did he get a good job? He’s still waiting’

We’re almost to our poorest place in the USA, and we’ll take a couple quick stops in Ohio. Here in Dayton, things are a real mess. 1 in 3 residents lives in poverty, and people barely crack the $30k mark annually for salaries.

Rochester, NY

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 206,848
Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Median Income: $35,590
Unemployment Rate: 10.2%
Poverty Rate: 31.3%
More on Rochester: Crime | Cost Of Living

Our next stop is in upstate New York. This time, we’re going to Rochester. One Rochester resident says, and I’ll paraphrase: Rochester used to be the headquarters for several large companies back in the 70s and 80s, and then a heavy tax burden businesses in the area. Now, a lot of the larger companies have left, taking the local economy with them.

Apparently, most of that is true – the language is kinda rough, but yes, Rochester was once a thriving city. It used to be a place where you could get your GED and make a pretty decent salary in what was considered a low-skilled job. Now, low high school graduation rates in Rochester make it tough to find the skills needed to entice companies. But they’re trying. The area is luring in new companies to the area these days.

Let’s all root for Rochester!

Rochester residents make a little less money than their Syracuse peers, but essentially, both have mostly poor to middle class residents. I wondered what type of music Rochester would listen to. And other poor communities. Apparently, there’s an answer for just about everything on the web. Poorer people like to listen to golden oldies, disco and rap. Richer people like classical, opera and rock.

Who listens to Taylor Swift then? 12 year olds?

Hartford, CT

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 123,088
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Income: $36,278
Unemployment Rate: 12.0%
Poverty Rate: 28.1%
More on Hartford: Crime | Cost Of Living

Hartford is in the top ten in all three categories we measured, and it has a high unemployment rate at 12.04%. And its poverty rate is twice the national average. Yikes.

A pretty in depth article talked about Hartford’s fall from grace – noting that at one point, Hartford was very popular. To sum, Hartford is more expensive to live than lots of other places, people are leaving Hartford in droves these days, and crime is really high. When manufacturing left, so did the jobs, talent, and enthusiasm.

Hartford used to have a hockey team, but they moved to Raleigh. They have a baseball team called…the Yard Goats? Why are they called that? Anyways, I’m surprised Hartford residents have any supplemental income to go watch baseball games.

Newark, NJ

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 281,054
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Income: $35,199
Unemployment Rate: 11.3%
Poverty Rate: 27.4%
More on Newark: Crime | Cost Of Living

Moving on, we come to our 6th poorest city in America, Newark. Here, the population averages about $10,000 more than the official poverty line at $35,199 a year, and the poverty and unemployment rates are dismally low.

If you compared Newark to Camden, Camden peeps make a little more money, and collectively, are the 40th poorest populace in the nation. I guess Camden wins that battle?

For many of Newark’s poor, there are many opportunities, as long as they try. Newark is the nation’s third largest insurance hub, behind Hartford and New York City. There are also a number of larger tech companies and medical corporations headquartered here. Several notable Newarkians include Jason Alexander from Seinfeld, rapper ICE T, and Steve Sanders from Beverly Hills 90210. Oh yeah and some scientist who helped Albert Einstein.

Syracuse, NY

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 142,874
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
Median Income: $38,276
Unemployment Rate: 9.3%
Poverty Rate: 31.0%
More on Syracuse: Crime | Cost Of Living

Our 7th poorest city in America is Syracuse, New York, where 1 in 3 people lives in poverty – the 4th highest rate in the US. Syracuse has actually become more poor than any other major city. A few years back, Syracuse was the 10th poorest, and now it’s the 7th poorest. Across America, poverty rates have ticked up in major cities, but overall, poverty rates have gone down overall, by quite a bit – about 10 percent more people are less poor nowadays.

On top of the poverty issue here in upstate New York, Syracuse actually gets more snowfall than any other place in America – with slightly more snow that Wooster Mass and nearby Buffalo. As such, Syracuse residents pay about 25% of their homeownership costs on utilities, with a big portion of that going to their heating bills. So for many months, it’s extra tough to get to one of four Syracuse area Super Walmarts, or one of four area Syracuse Targets. Since Targets groceries are about 15% more expensive than Walmarts, it’s safe to assume the poorer folks patronize Walmart.

Look at how many dollar stores are in the greater Syracuse region. Makes sense.

Jackson, MS

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 166,383
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 1)
Median Income: $38,888
Unemployment Rate: 11.3%
Poverty Rate: 25.4%
More on Jackson: Crime | Cost Of Living

If you’re judging horrible by really poor, than Jackson would be the reason Mississippi is horrible. Not that it’s horrible, but it’s certainly poor. Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation, you know.

Jackson is located along the western side of the state. And as you can see in this county by county map of poverty rates in America, a lot of western Mississippi is poo to the oor. Other poor hotspots include the US Mexico border in Texas, a large part of rural, mountainous Kentucky, and Native American reservations in both Arizona and South Dakota.

Jackson is known for many things, including the place where some guy broke the record for a Dr. Mario score. It used to be that you couldn’t make a lot of money playing video games, but hopefully, that guy has made a profitable career here today. He’d be an outlier, that’s for sure.

Do poor people play video games? What TV shows do they watch? Well, apparently, the poorer you are, the more video games you play – by about 12 minutes a day. So are poor people playing more video games because it’s cheaper than going out, or are they poor because they play video games more?

The TV show with the richest viewership? The Bachelorette.

Birmingham, AL

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 212,297
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Income: $37,375
Unemployment Rate: 9.0%
Poverty Rate: 25.9%
More on Birmingham: Crime | Cost Of Living

Birmingham, Alabama — here, the residents earn on average, $37,375 a year, and the poverty rates one of the lowest in the country, too. Alabama’s other poorest city, Mobile, isn’t quite as poor, where people make a more reassuring $40k a year.

Speaking of maps, where would a resident of Birmingham go for fun? Like, what do poor people do for entertainment? There wasn’t an exact answer, but after searching the internet for like 2 minutes, it was clear that poorer Americans go to public parks and pools, fish, attend church and spend time with friends and family. And guess what? Those things cost nothing.

And sadly, poorer people don’t have as much time to do that, as research suggests there’s about a 10-12 year gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor.

Toledo, OH

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 276,614
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 4)
Median Income: $37,752
Unemployment Rate: 9.1%
Poverty Rate: 25.5%
More on Toledo: Crime | Cost Of Living

How We Determined The Poorest Large Cities in The US For 2021

When we analyze a place to live, we study the statistics you can find anywhere on the web. You can get just about any demographic out there.

For this analysis we used the — U.S. Census’s 2015-2019 American Community Survey.

For this study, we considered the following categories:

  • # of residents living in poverty
  • Income rank
  • % of population unemployed

The census just updated their data, so we can take a fresh look at it.

And, to be clear, we measured the 305 largest cities in America with populations over 100,000. So, while your little small town might be broke, we’re only looking at the most populated areas.

To score the cities, we ranked each one from 1 to 305 where 1 is the “poorest” for that category. We then averaged the three rankings into a poor score with the lowest overall score being named poorest city in America. You can download the data here.

There You Have It — The Poorest Cities in The Us For 2021

After all the dust settled and the analysis was over, we crowned Detroit as the poorest city in America for 2021.

While it’s bad news for the cities we mentioned, we have to acknowledge the richest cities in America. If you live in Centennial, CO, Fremont, or Pearland, , sounds like things are going pretty well right now.

Maybe it’s time for you to look at giving back to the community a bit?

Here’s a look at the richest cities in America:

  1. Centennial
  2. Fremont
  3. Pearland

For more reading, check out:

Poorest Cities In America For 2021

Rank City Population Median Income
1 Detroit, MI 674,841 $30,894
2 Cleveland, OH 385,282 $30,907
3 Dayton, OH 140,569 $32,540
4 Rochester, NY 206,848 $35,590
5 Hartford, CT 123,088 $36,278
6 Newark, NJ 281,054 $35,199
7 Syracuse, NY 142,874 $38,276
8 Jackson, MS 166,383 $38,888
9 Birmingham, AL 212,297 $37,375
10 Toledo, OH 276,614 $37,752
11 Allentown, PA 120,915 $41,167
12 Springfield, MA 154,139 $39,432
13 New Haven, CT 130,331 $42,222
14 Buffalo, NY 256,480 $37,354
15 Memphis, TN 651,932 $41,228
16 Waterbury, CT 108,276 $42,401
17 Cincinnati, OH 301,394 $40,640
18 San Bernardino, CA 216,089 $45,834
19 Pueblo, CO 110,841 $40,450
20 Akron, OH 198,051 $38,739
21 Rockford, IL 147,070 $44,252
22 Lansing, MI 117,159 $41,674
23 Augusta-Richmond County Consolidated Government (Balance), GA 197,191 $42,592
24 Philadelphia, PA 1,579,075 $45,927
25 Baton Rouge, LA 224,149 $44,470
26 Tallahassee, FL 191,279 $45,734
27 Bridgeport, CT 145,639 $46,662
28 New Orleans, LA 390,845 $41,604
29 Shreveport, LA 192,035 $39,090
30 Savannah, GA 145,403 $43,307
31 Providence, RI 179,494 $45,610
32 Fresno, CA 525,010 $50,432
33 Las Cruces, NM 102,102 $43,022
34 Milwaukee, WI 594,548 $41,838
35 Tucson, AZ 541,482 $43,425
36 Brownsville, TX 182,271 $38,588
37 Columbus, GA 195,739 $46,408
38 Fayetteville, NC 210,432 $45,024
39 Miami Gardens, FL 111,363 $44,064
40 South Bend, IN 102,037 $40,265
41 St. Louis, MO 308,174 $43,896
42 Miami, FL 454,279 $39,049
43 Baltimore, MD 609,032 $50,379
44 Richmond, VA 226,622 $47,250
45 Victorville, CA 121,902 $53,957
46 Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (Balance), GA 124,719 $38,311
47 Gainesville, FL 132,127 $37,264
48 Peoria, IL 113,532 $51,771
49 Columbia, SC 133,273 $47,286
50 Kansas City, KS 152,522 $45,665
51 Mcallen, TX 141,968 $46,804
52 Mobile, AL 190,432 $42,321
53 Evansville, IN 118,588 $40,178
54 Montgomery, AL 199,783 $48,011
55 Pompano Beach, FL 110,062 $49,518
56 Knoxville, TN 186,173 $40,341
57 Eugene, OR 168,302 $50,962
58 Winston-Salem, NC 244,115 $45,750
59 High Point, NC 111,714 $47,234
60 Grand Rapids, MI 198,401 $50,103
61 Norfolk, VA 244,601 $51,590
62 Tulsa, OK 402,324 $47,650
63 Waco, TX 135,858 $40,190
64 Warren, MI 134,797 $49,619
65 Springfield, MO 167,051 $36,856
66 El Cajon, CA 103,186 $55,309
67 Stockton, CA 309,228 $54,614
68 Paterson, NJ 145,710 $41,360
69 El Monte, CA 115,517 $49,003
70 Pasadena, TX 153,350 $55,039
71 El Paso, TX 679,813 $47,568
72 Wilmington, NC 120,194 $47,580
73 Indianapolis, IN 864,447 $47,873
74 Killeen, TX 145,686 $49,630
75 Chattanooga, TN 179,690 $45,527
76 Lancaster, CA 159,028 $55,237
77 Springfield, IL 115,888 $54,648
78 Hialeah, FL 234,539 $35,068
79 Greensboro, NC 291,303 $48,964
80 Lakeland, FL 107,922 $47,511
81 Pittsburgh, PA 302,205 $48,711
82 Chicago, IL 2,709,534 $58,247
83 Worcester, MA 185,143 $48,139
84 Laredo, TX 259,151 $47,593
85 Inglewood, CA 109,613 $54,400
86 Clearwater, FL 115,159 $48,691
87 North Charleston, SC 111,501 $45,510
88 Houston, TX 2,310,432 $52,338
89 Tampa, FL 387,916 $53,833
90 West Palm Beach, FL 109,767 $54,334
91 Atlanta, GA 488,800 $59,948
92 Elizabeth, NJ 128,333 $48,407
93 Rialto, CA 103,045 $61,518
94 Spokane, WA 217,353 $50,306
95 College Station, TX 113,686 $45,820
96 Provo, UT 116,403 $48,888
97 Pomona, CA 152,209 $60,598
98 Bakersfield, CA 377,917 $63,139
99 Fort Lauderdale, FL 180,124 $59,450
100 Modesto, CA 212,616 $59,287

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.