California brings to mind images of Sacramento, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you’ll find in the good ole US of A.
However, like all states, California has certain places that are going on hard times. These places have an above average percent of people that are living in poverty, out of work, or not making as much as they should be.
With all the talk about income inequality going on around the country, we thought it prudent to take a look at the places in each state that are struggling to make it even as the economy continues to improve. So we set our sites on bringing attention to the places in California that could use a helping hand.
To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 427 places in California with more than 5,000 people.
We were left with this set of the ten poorest places in the Golden State for 2018:
- Mendota (Photos)
- Adelanto (Photos)
- Orange Cove (Photos)
- Corning (Photos)
- Arcata (Photos)
- Calipatria (Photos)
Again, this isn’t a commentary on the people that live there or the vibrant culture and traditions of these places. Instead, it’s just a look at the facts.
And according to the facts, Mendota is the poorest place in California for 2018.
For more on how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.
How We Determined The Poorest Places In California For 2018
The first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think about determining the poorest places is to simply the poverty rate. That is, the number of people living below a federally established level of income for a household of a certain size.
However, we don’t think that one statistic wholly encompasses what it means to be one of the ‘poorest places’. So we looked at this set of criteria from the newly released 2012-2016 American Community Survey:
- Poverty Level
- Median Household Income adjusted for the cost of living
- Unemployment Rate
The ‘median household income adjusted for the cost of living’ attempts to gauge how expensive it is to live in a place and how that impacts the quality of life. For example, a town might have fewer people living below the official poverty line, but the cost of living is so high they’d still feel poor.
The unemployment rate tries to capture the prospects for improvement in the city or town. If more people are employed, the brighter the future looks and vice versa.
After we collected the data for all 427 places with more than 5,000 people in California, we ranked each place from 1 to 427 for each of the criteria, with 1 being the poorest.
We then averaged all the rankings for a place into a ‘Poor Score’ with the place having the lowest overall Poor Score, Mendota, crowned the ‘Poorest Place In California For 2018’.
You can learn more about the top ten below or skip to the end to see the rankings for all 427 places.
Population: 11,394Median Income: $26,094
Unemployment Rate: 26.8%
Poverty Rate: 49.5%
Mendota, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in California thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.
The city of 11,394 people averages the 3rd lowest median household income in California and the 2nd highest poverty rate. At the very least, the cost of living ranks in the bottom 15% of place in the state, so things like housing are relatively affordable.
Population: 32,311Median Income: $29,647
Unemployment Rate: 22.0%
Poverty Rate: 42.2%
The second poorest city in California is Adelanto.
The city ranks as having the 4th highest incidence of poverty and 7th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the 3rd highest in the Golden State.
Population: 15,070Median Income: $25,426
Unemployment Rate: 19.5%
Poverty Rate: 38.1%
Placing as the third poorest city, Clearlake’s median income ranks as the 2nd lowest.
And that’s a sign that there’s a relatively substantial jump in the quality of the economy from second to third place on our list. The poverty rate is 38.1% and ranks near the bottom of places in the state.
But what makes up for the relatively low incomes of the city is its low cost of living. The income you do make here goes further than in most parts of the Golden State.
4. Orange Cove
Population: 9,566Median Income: $27,782
Unemployment Rate: 17.9%
Poverty Rate: 51.6%
Orange Cove ranks as the fourth poorest place in California.
The town ranks as having the 5th lowest median household income and the 1st highest incidence of poverty in the state.
That being said, there’s still a ton of cultural diversity in the city as it hosts many events throughout the year.
Population: 7,548Median Income: $31,333
Unemployment Rate: 21.8%
Poverty Rate: 38.8%
The fifth poorest city in California is Corning.
The city ranks as having the 13th lowest median income in the state. However, an extremely low cost of living prevents a good number of folks from living in poverty as the poverty rate only ranks as the 7th highest in California.
Still not the best news for Corning.
Population: 17,775Median Income: $31,180
Unemployment Rate: 16.4%
Poverty Rate: 40.1%
Arcata ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Golden State.
It ranks as having the 5th highest incidence of poverty and the 20th highest unemployment rate.
Population: 13,391 Median Income: $33,687
Unemployment Rate: 17.5%
Poverty Rate: 37.7%
McFarland places as the seventh poorest city in California.
The city of over 13,391 ranks as having the 10th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.
Population: 14,953Median Income: $30,556
Unemployment Rate: 14.5%
Poverty Rate: 43.9%
Parlier ranks as the eighth poorest city in California.
The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 33rd highest in the state.
Population: 7,511Median Income: $34,800
Unemployment Rate: 17.4%
Poverty Rate: 33.5%
Calipatria couldn’t stay out of the top ten poorest places in California; it ranks number 9.
While the median income is the 19th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Calipatria ranks as having the 15th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in California.
Population: 7,567 Median Income: $34,583
Unemployment Rate: 15.8%
Poverty Rate: 33.2%
And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in California is Woodlake.
The city of 7,567 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Golden State.
There You Have It – The Poorest Places In California For 2018
Like we said earlier, when we set out to identify the poorest places in California, we weren’t sure what we’d encounter, but it ended up being some of the best places to live in California.
When you look at the data, the cities and places mentioned above meet the criteria for being at the very bottom of the income ladder for everyone that lives there.
If you’re curious enough, here are the richest cities in California, according to data:
Richest: Los Altos
2nd Richest: Mill Valley
3rd Richest: Los Altos Hills
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