Like all states, California has certain places that are going on hard times. These California places have an above-average percentage of people living in poverty, out of work, or not making as much as they should be.
Even as the economy continues to improve, it’s worthwhile to look at the places in each state struggling to make ends meet. So we set our sites on locating the poorest places in California.
To do so, we used Saturday Night Science to analyze the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 428 cities in California with more than 5,000 people.
What’s the poorest city in California? According to the facts, Orange Cove is the poorest place in California for 2023.
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.
For more California reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In California
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- Most Dangerous Cities In California
- The poorest states in the US
- The poorest cities in the US
The 10 Poorest Cities In California For 2023
Orange Cove, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in California thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.
The city of 9,680 people averages the lowest median household income in California and the 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.
The second poorest city in California is Huron.
The city ranks as having the 2nd highest incidence of poverty and 4th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the 3rd highest in the Golden State.
Placing as the third poorest city, Firebaugh’s median income ranks as the 5th 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 32.7363184079602% 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.
Mendota ranks as the fourth poorest place in California.
The town ranks as having the 8th lowest median household income and the 3rd 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.
The fifth poorest city in California is Arcata.
The city ranks as having the 11th 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 4th highest in California.
Still not the best news for Arcata.
McFarland ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Golden State.
It ranks as having the 12th highest incidence of poverty and the 97th highest unemployment rate.
Crescent City places as the seventh poorest city in California.
The city of over 6,686 ranks as having the 20th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.
Lindsay ranks as the eighth poorest city in California.
The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 2nd highest in the state.
Woodlake couldn’t stay out of the top ten poorest places in California; it ranks number 9.
While the median income is the 18th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Woodlake ranks as having the 7th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in California.
And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in California is Calipatria.
The city of 7,247 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Golden State.
Methodology: How We Determined The Poorest Places In California for 2023
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 used Saturday Night Science to look at this set of criteria from the newly released 2017-2021 American Community Survey:
- Poverty Level
- Median Household Income
After we collected the data for all 428 places with more than 5,000 people in California, we ranked each place from 1 to 428 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, Orange Cove, crowned the “Poorest Place In California For 2023”.
This report has been updated for 2023, which is our tenth time ranking the poorest places in California.
Summary: The Poorest Cities In California For 2023
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:
2nd Richest: Los Altos Hills
3rd Richest: Orinda
For more California reading, check out:
- Richest Cities In California
- Safest Places In California
- Worst Places To Live In California
- Most Expensive Places To Live In California
Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In California
|Rank||City||Population||Poverty Rate||Median Income||People In Poverty|
|13||Desert Hot Springs||31,988||26.3%||$37,924||8,423|
|50||San Luis Obispo||47,257||29.6%||$61,862||13,974|
|60||South El Monte||19,860||21.5%||$60,244||4,261|