Tennessee brings to mind images of Nashville, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you’ll find in the good ole US of A.
However, like all states, Tennessee has certain places that are going on hard times. These Tennessee 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 poorest places in Tennessee.
To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 99 places in Tennessee with more than 5,000 people.
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 Tennessee? According to the facts, Newport is the poorest place in Tennessee for 2023.
To see how we calculated the top ten, and for more information about these places, read on.
For more Tennessee reading, check out:
- Best Places To Live In Tennessee
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- The poorest states in the US
- The poorest cities in the US
The 10 Poorest Cities In Tennessee For 2023
Newport, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in Tennessee thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.
The city of 6,845 people averages the 4th lowest median household income in Tennessee 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.
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $33,736 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 13.4% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 32.2% (highest)
More on Newport:
The second poorest city in Tennessee is Lawrenceburg.
The city ranks as having the 4th highest incidence of poverty and 3rd lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the 7th highest in the Volunteer State.
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Income: $33,463 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.3% (7th highest)
Poverty Rate: 28.1% (4th highest)
More on Lawrenceburg:
Placing as the third poorest city, Ripley’s median income ranks as the 8th 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 25.846678918351273% 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 Volunteer State.
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 3)
Median Income: $35,634 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 12.0% (4th highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.8% (10th highest)
More on Ripley:
Brownsville ranks as the fourth poorest place in Tennessee.
The town ranks as having the 6th lowest median household income and the 9th 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.
Rank Last Year: 23 (Up 19)
Median Income: $35,395 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.4% (9th highest)
Poverty Rate: 26.1% (9th highest)
More on Brownsville:
The fifth poorest city in Tennessee is La Follette.
The city ranks as having the 20th 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 3rd highest in Tennessee.
Still not the best news for La Follette.
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 2)
Median Income: $38,577 (20th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 21.1% (2nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 28.7% (3rd highest)
More on La Follette:
Bolivar ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Volunteer State.
It ranks as having the 23rd highest incidence of poverty and the highest unemployment rate.
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 2)
Median Income: $33,303 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 21.7% (highest)
Poverty Rate: 23.3% (23rd highest)
More on Bolivar:
Covington places as the seventh poorest city in Tennessee.
The city of over 8,666 ranks as having the 8th highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.
Rank Last Year: 22 (Up 15)
Median Income: $32,205 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.6% (24th highest)
Poverty Rate: 26.5% (8th highest)
More on Covington:
Morristown ranks as the eighth poorest city in Tennessee.
The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 20th highest in the state.
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 1)
Median Income: $36,495 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.4% (20th highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.5% (12th highest)
More on Morristown:
Union City couldn’t stay out of the top ten poorest places in Tennessee; it ranks number 9.
While the median income is the 11th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Union City ranks as having the 14th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Tennessee.
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 4)
Median Income: $36,042 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (22nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.2% (14th highest)
More on Union City:
And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Tennessee is Humboldt.
The city of 7,899 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Volunteer State.
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 2)
Median Income: $35,848 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (25th highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.3% (13th highest)
More on Humboldt:
Methodology: How We Determined The Poorest Places In Tennessee 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 looked at this set of criteria from the newly released 2017-2021 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 99 places with more than 5,000 people in Tennessee, we ranked each place from 1 to 99 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, Newport, crowned the “Poorest Place In Tennessee For 2023”.
This report has been updated for 2023, which is our tenth time ranking the poorest places in Tennessee.
Summary: The Poorest Places In Tennessee For 2023
Like we said earlier, when we set out to identify the poorest places in Tennessee, we weren’t sure what we’d encounter, but it ended up being some of the best places to live in Tennessee.
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 Tennessee, according to data:
2nd Richest: Brentwood
3rd Richest: Farragut
For more Tennessee reading, check out:
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Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Tennessee