Poorest Cities In North Carolina For 2020


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 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the poorest places in North Carolina.

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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 136 places in North Carolina with more than 5,000 people.

Here are the ten poorest places in North Carolina for 2020:

  1. Boone (Photos)
  2. Wadesboro (Photos)
  3. Forest City (Photos)
  4. Roxboro (Photos)
  5. Laurinburg (Photos)
  6. Lexington (Photos)
  7. Kinston (Photos)
  8. Washington (Photos)
  9. Henderson (Photos)
  10. Dunn (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.

What's the poorst city in North Carolina? According to the facts, Boone is the poorest place in North Carolina for 2020.

Rich people more your cup of tea? Feel free to check out the richest 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 2020

Boone, NC

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 18,795
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Income: $19,574 (1st lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 15.1% (5th highest)
Poverty Rate: 56.1% (1st 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 18,795 people averages the 1st lowest median household income in North Carolina and the 1st 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.

Wadesboro, NC

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 5,351
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 6)
Median Income: $27,671 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 18.0% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 32.2% (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 3rd lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate 'only' ranks as the 3rd highest in the Tar Heel State.

Forest City, NC

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 7,167
Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Median Income: $27,861 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 18.3% (2nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 31.8% (8th highest)
More on Forest City:  Data | Photos

Placing as the third poorest city, Forest City's median income ranks as the 4th 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 31.78882336422354% 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.

Roxboro, NC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 8,283
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 3)
Median Income: $27,170 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 14.1% (10th highest)
Poverty Rate: 36.2% (3rd highest)
More on Roxboro:  Data | Photos

Roxboro ranks as the fourth poorest place in North Carolina.

The town ranks as having the 2nd 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.

Laurinburg, NC

Overall SnackAbility

2
/10

Population: 15,253
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Income: $29,388 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 14.2% (9th highest)
Poverty Rate: 34.0% (4th highest)
More on Laurinburg:  Data | Photos

The fifth poorest city in North Carolina is Laurinburg.

The city ranks as having the 7th 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 Laurinburg.

Lexington, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 18,897
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Income: $28,669 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 13.8% (11th highest)
Poverty Rate: 31.0% (10th highest)
More on Lexington:  Data | Photos

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

It ranks as having the 10th highest incidence of poverty and the 11th highest unemployment rate.

Kinston, NC

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 20,659
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 3)
Median Income: $31,981 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 15.5% (4th highest)
Poverty Rate: 29.4% (13th highest)
More on Kinston:  Data | Photos

Kinston places as the seventh poorest city in North Carolina.

The city of over 20,659 ranks as having the 13th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.

Washington, NC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 9,649
Rank Last Year: 15 (Up 7)
Median Income: $32,682 (15th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 14.8% (6th highest)
Poverty Rate: 26.6% (19th highest)
More on Washington:  Data | Photos

Washington ranks as the eighth poorest city in North Carolina.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 6th highest in the state.

Henderson, NC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 14,986
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 5)
Median Income: $30,145 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.2% (21st highest)
Poverty Rate: 30.1% (12th highest)
More on Henderson:  Data | Photos

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

While the median income is the 9th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Henderson ranks as having the 12th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in North Carolina.

Dunn, NC

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 9,635
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Median Income: $29,592 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (26th highest)
Poverty Rate: 30.1% (11th highest)
More on Dunn:  Data | Photos

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

The city of 9,635 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 2020

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 2014-2018 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 136 places with more than 5,000 people in North Carolina, we ranked each place from 1 to 136 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 2020". You can download the data here.

There You Have It - The Poorest Places In North Carolina For 2020

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: Oak Ridge

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 18,795 56.1%
2 Wadesboro 5,351 32.2%
3 Forest City 7,167 31.8%
4 Roxboro 8,283 36.2%
5 Laurinburg 15,253 34.0%
6 Lexington 18,897 31.0%
7 Kinston 20,659 29.4%
8 Washington 9,649 26.6%
9 Henderson 14,986 30.1%
10 Dunn 9,635 30.1%
11 Goldsboro 34,972 26.2%
12 Rockingham 8,994 26.7%
13 Siler City 8,106 26.8%
14 Ayden 5,112 26.4%
15 Whiteville 5,450 33.1%
16 Lincolnton 10,678 29.0%
17 Greenville 91,207 31.4%
18 Selma 6,577 39.3%
19 Clinton 8,557 27.2%
20 Shelby 20,053 26.3%
21 Oxford 8,648 26.3%
22 Eden 15,121 22.4%
23 Lumberton 21,198 33.5%
24 Williamston 5,375 18.5%
25 Spring Lake 12,284 21.5%
26 Reidsville 13,909 23.8%
27 Elizabeth City 17,604 24.6%
28 Lenoir 17,899 24.9%
29 Albemarle 15,889 24.8%
30 Kings Mountain 10,955 21.3%
31 Salisbury 33,652 22.5%
32 Hamlet 6,362 24.8%
33 Wilson 49,230 23.5%
34 Statesville 26,263 20.6%
35 Tarboro 11,045 19.3%
36 Asheboro 25,859 22.7%
37 Thomasville 26,839 20.4%
38 Rocky Mount 54,982 21.0%
39 Mount Airy 10,227 25.8%
40 Roanoke Rapids 14,937 24.0%
41 Graham 14,670 27.1%
42 Fayetteville 209,867 19.2%
43 Smithfield 12,117 21.2%
44 New Bern 29,958 18.5%
45 Monroe 34,679 20.2%
46 Burlington 52,524 20.7%
47 Jacksonville 73,226 13.8%
48 Walke 5,043 12.7%
49 Winston-Salem 242,125 21.7%
50 Morganton 16,466 19.2%
51 Marion 7,839 17.3%
52 Bessemer City 5,438 15.6%
53 Wilmington 118,094 23.0%
54 Brevard 7,785 15.0%
55 High Point 111,035 18.5%
56 Sanford 29,274 18.5%
57 Gastonia 75,138 18.4%
58 Hickory 40,402 16.3%
59 Hope Mills 15,762 15.8%
60 Newton 13,005 15.2%
61 Sawmills 5,159 19.3%
62 Morehead City 9,304 16.9%
63 Butner 7,699 18.3%
64 Havelock 20,330 12.4%
65 Greensboro 288,719 18.5%
66 Mocksville 5,184 18.6%
67 Woodfin 6,487 21.9%
68 Kannapolis 47,553 14.6%
69 Conover 8,300 20.5%
70 Waynesville 9,898 18.8%
71 Angier 5,376 7.9%
72 Kill Devil Hills 7,035 12.6%
73 Durham 264,310 16.8%
74 Mebane 15,198 13.1%
75 Nashville 5,523 10.7%
76 Charlotte 841,611 14.0%
77 Cherryville 5,889 17.0%
78 Hillsborough 7,083 13.2%
79 Hendersonville 13,809 15.1%
80 Black Mountain 8,137 5.6%
81 Southern Pines 13,694 14.2%
82 Archdale 11,538 10.4%
83 Kernersville 24,088 14.2%
84 Elon 11,008 20.1%
85 Chapel Hill 59,561 18.9%
86 Aberdeen 7,419 9.7%
87 Concord 89,729 11.3%
88 Carrboro 21,216 14.5%
89 Gibsonville 7,024 10.7%
90 Zebulon 5,166 16.0%
91 Leland 19,157 11.5%
92 Mount Holly 15,305 9.7%
93 Garner 28,731 10.5%
94 Asheville 90,531 13.5%
95 Raleigh 457,159 13.7%
96 Pineville 8,574 9.1%
97 Trinity 6,621 12.0%
98 Wendell 6,828 17.7%
99 Boiling Spring Lakes 5,888 5.6%
100 Rolesville 6,957 3.0%

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