Poorest Cities In North Carolina For 2021


We used science and data to determine which places in North Carolina are basically dead broke.

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Editor’s Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out we updated this article for 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the poorest places in North Carolina.

North Carolina brings to mind images of Raleigh, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you'll find in the good ole US of A.

However, like all states, North Carolina 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 North Carolina that could use a helping hand.

To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 137 places in North Carolina with more than 5,000 people.

Here are the ten poorest places in North Carolina for 2021:

  1. Boone
  2. Wadesboro
  3. Forest City
  4. Laurinburg
  5. Roxboro
  6. Kinston
  7. Lexington
  8. Rockingham
  9. Washington
  10. Tarboro

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.

What's the poorst city in North Carolina? According to the facts, Boone is the poorest place in North Carolina for 2021.

Rich people more your cup of tea? Feel free to check out the best places in North Carolina or the most dangerous.

For more on how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the poorest states in America or the poorest cities in America.

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

The 10 Poorest Cities In North Carolina For 2021

1. Boone

Boone, NC

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 19,119
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $22,434 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 14.4% (5th highest)
Poverty Rate: 53.0% (highest)
More on Boone:  Data | Photos

Boone, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in North Carolina thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.

The city of 19,119 people averages the lowest median household income in North Carolina 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.

2. Wadesboro

Wadesboro, NC

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 5,305
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Income: $26,680 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 15.3% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 32.3% (7th highest)
More on Wadesboro:  Data | Photos

The second poorest city in North Carolina is Wadesboro.

The city ranks as having the 7th highest incidence of poverty and 2nd lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate 'only' ranks as the 3rd highest in the Tar Heel State.

3. Forest City

Forest City, NC

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 7,155
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Income: $27,589 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 12.3% (8th highest)
Poverty Rate: 36.9% (2nd highest)
More on Forest City:  Data | Photos

Placing as the third poorest city, Forest City's median income ranks as the 3rd 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 36.94602272727273% 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 Tar Heel State.

4. Laurinburg

Laurinburg, NC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 15,119
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Income: $30,862 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 14.6% (4th highest)
Poverty Rate: 33.8% (5th highest)
More on Laurinburg:  Data | Photos

Laurinburg ranks as the fourth poorest place in North Carolina.

The town ranks as having the 9th lowest median household income and the 5th 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.

5. Roxboro

Roxboro, NC

Overall SnackAbility

1
/10

Population: 8,298
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Median Income: $31,427 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 12.1% (11th highest)
Poverty Rate: 34.4% (4th highest)
More on Roxboro:  Data | Photos

The fifth poorest city in North Carolina is Roxboro.

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 North Carolina.

Still not the best news for Roxboro.

6. Kinston

Kinston, NC

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 20,398
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Median Income: $33,066 (16th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 15.4% (2nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 27.8% (13th highest)
More on Kinston:  Data | Photos

Kinston ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Tar Heel State.

It ranks as having the 13th highest incidence of poverty and the 2nd highest unemployment rate.

7. Lexington

Lexington, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 18,861
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 1)
Median Income: $29,938 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.0% (14th highest)
Poverty Rate: 27.0% (18th highest)
More on Lexington:  Data | Photos

Lexington places as the seventh poorest city in North Carolina.

The city of over 18,861 ranks as having the 18th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.

8. Rockingham

Rockingham, NC

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 8,865
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 4)
Median Income: $32,150 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.6% (17th highest)
Poverty Rate: 28.4% (12th highest)
More on Rockingham:  Data | Photos

Rockingham ranks as the eighth poorest city in North Carolina.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 17th highest in the state.

9. Washington

Washington, NC

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 9,590
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Median Income: $32,196 (13th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.0% (15th highest)
Poverty Rate: 27.8% (14th highest)
More on Washington:  Data | Photos

Washington couldn't stay out of the top ten poorest places in North Carolina; it ranks number 9.

While the median income is the 13th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Washington ranks as having the 14th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in North Carolina.

10. Tarboro

Tarboro, NC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 10,915
Rank Last Year: 35 (Up 25)
Median Income: $29,738 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.2% (22nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 27.5% (17th highest)
More on Tarboro:  Data | Photos

And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in North Carolina is Tarboro.

The city of 10,915 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Tar Heel State.

How We Determined The Poorest Places In North Carolina for 2021

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 2015-2019 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 137 places with more than 5,000 people in North Carolina, we ranked each place from 1 to 137 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, Boone, crowned the "Poorest Place In North Carolina For 2021". You can download the data here.

There You Have It - The Poorest Places In North Carolina For 2021

Like we said earlier, when we set out to identify the poorest places in North Carolina, we weren't sure what we'd encounter, but it ended up being some of the best places to live in North Carolina.

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 North Carolina, according to data:

    Richest: Weddington
    2nd Richest: Marvin
    3rd Richest: Davidson

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In North Carolina

Rank City Population Poverty Rate
1 Boone 19,119 53.0%
2 Wadesboro 5,305 32.3%
3 Forest City 7,155 36.9%
4 Laurinburg 15,119 33.8%
5 Roxboro 8,298 34.4%
6 Kinston 20,398 27.8%
7 Lexington 18,861 27.0%
8 Rockingham 8,865 28.4%
9 Washington 9,590 27.8%
10 Tarboro 10,915 27.5%
11 Henderson 14,948 27.7%
12 Goldsboro 34,647 26.1%
13 Dunn 9,664 29.1%
14 Selma 6,746 35.3%
15 Hamlet 6,331 28.9%
16 Ayden 5,132 27.7%
17 Reidsville 13,915 24.3%
18 Williamston 5,312 21.5%
19 Lumberton 20,928 32.4%
20 Kings Mountain 11,028 25.6%
21 Oxford 8,721 26.8%
22 Greenville 91,921 30.2%
23 Shelby 20,007 25.9%
24 Clinton 8,504 26.2%
25 Spring Lake 12,119 21.8%
26 Lincolnton 10,832 23.6%
27 Eden 15,055 22.6%
28 Lenoir 17,879 22.1%
29 Elizabeth City 17,629 22.8%
30 Salisbury 33,727 21.4%
31 Wilson 49,272 23.2%
32 Mount Airy 10,193 26.2%
33 Roanoke Rapids 14,741 25.7%
34 Siler City 8,078 21.8%
35 Whiteville 5,386 30.1%
36 Smithfield 12,400 22.1%
37 Albemarle 15,980 23.0%
38 Graham 14,925 25.9%
39 Marion 7,834 20.0%
40 Fayetteville 210,432 19.3%
41 Asheboro 25,852 20.4%
42 Rocky Mount 54,548 19.2%
43 New Bern 29,895 18.7%
44 Statesville 26,685 18.7%
45 Butner 7,727 18.1%
46 Morganton 16,481 24.4%
47 Thomasville 26,784 19.7%
48 Jacksonville 73,025 13.0%
49 Bessemer City 5,471 13.4%
50 Walke 5,099 13.4%
51 Burlington 53,063 20.3%
52 Hickory 40,634 17.1%
53 Brevard 7,824 16.1%
54 Monroe 35,105 17.9%
55 Winston-Salem 244,115 20.7%
56 Wilmington 120,194 22.2%
57 Nashville 5,516 14.4%
58 High Point 111,714 17.8%
59 Morehead City 9,413 16.3%
60 Sanford 29,456 18.2%
61 Gastonia 75,887 16.8%
62 Hope Mills 15,769 16.4%
63 Greensboro 291,303 18.5%
64 Woodfin 6,612 23.3%
65 Waynesville 9,965 18.0%
66 Sawmills 5,165 18.7%
67 Zebulon 5,404 14.9%
68 Cherryville 5,956 16.5%
69 Erwin 5,035 16.6%
70 Southern Pines 14,022 14.9%
71 Kannapolis 48,630 14.5%
72 Mocksville 5,213 20.4%
73 Newton 13,059 12.5%
74 Hendersonville 13,908 17.8%
75 Kernersville 24,576 12.2%
76 Aberdeen 7,595 8.9%
77 Havelock 20,086 12.0%
78 Durham 269,702 15.9%
79 Carrboro 21,230 15.7%
80 Conover 8,452 13.6%
81 Elon 11,516 22.7%
82 Hillsborough 7,115 12.2%
83 Mebane 14,952 11.2%
84 Kill Devil Hills 7,155 11.3%
85 Archdale 11,510 10.5%
86 Black Mountain 8,144 5.9%
87 Charlotte 857,425 12.8%
88 Angier 5,893 13.4%
89 Trinity 6,579 11.6%
90 Concord 91,980 10.6%
91 Gibsonville 7,127 10.8%
92 Wendell 7,308 20.1%
93 Boiling Spring Lakes 6,021 6.2%
94 Mount Holly 15,610 9.2%
95 Chapel Hill 60,998 19.5%
96 Asheville 91,560 13.8%
97 Belmont 12,054 13.3%
98 Raleigh 464,485 12.6%
99 Garner 29,462 10.0%
100 Leland 20,294 8.6%

How Is The Area In ?

 Poorest