These Are The 10 Poorest Cities In Texas For 2018


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

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Texas brings to mind images of Austin, beautiful landscapes, and some of the best people you’ll find in the good ole US of A.

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

To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 345 places in Texas with more than 5,000 people.

We were left with this set of the ten poorest places in the Lone Star State for 2018:

  1. Elsa (Photos)
  2. Commerce (Photos)
  3. Prairie View (Photos)
  4. Raymondville (Photos)
  5. Roma (Photos)
  6. Hempstead (Photos)
  7. Alton
  8. Mercedes (Photos)
  9. Marlin (Photos)
  10. San Benito (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, Elsa is the poorest place in Texas for 2018.

Rich people not your cup of tea? Feel free to check out the richest places in Texas or the most dangerous.

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 Texas 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 345 places with more than 5,000 people in Texas, we ranked each place from 1 to 345 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, Elsa, crowned the ‘Poorest Place In Texas For 2018’.

You can learn more about the top ten below or skip to the end to see the rankings for all 345 places.

1. Elsa


Population: 6,542
Median Income: $22,693
Unemployment Rate: 16.7%
Poverty Rate: 46.5%
More on Elsa: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Elsa, unfortunately, ranks as the poorest place in Texas thanks to combination of low pay and and a lack of jobs.

The city of 6,542 people averages the 4th lowest median household income in Texas and the 3rd 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. Commerce

Commerce, Texas

Population: 8,732
Median Income: $19,090
Unemployment Rate: 14.8%
Poverty Rate: 47.3%
More on Commerce: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

The second poorest city in Texas is Commerce.

The city ranks as having the 2nd highest incidence of poverty and 1st lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the 9th highest in the Lone Star State.

3. Prairie View

Prairie View, Texas

Population: 6,209
Median Income: $24,625
Unemployment Rate: 18.8%
Poverty Rate: 46.0%
More on Prairie View: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Placing as the third poorest city, Prairie View’s median income ranks as the 6th 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 46.0% 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 Lone Star State.

4. Raymondville


Population: 11,165
Median Income: $24,167
Unemployment Rate: 16.9%
Poverty Rate: 40.7%
More on Raymondville: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Raymondville ranks as the fourth poorest place in Texas.

The town ranks as having the 5th lowest median household income and the 6th 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. Roma

Roma, Texas

Population: 10,093
Median Income: $19,842
Unemployment Rate: 12.5%
Poverty Rate: 50.7%
More on Roma: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

The fifth poorest city in Texas is Roma.

The city ranks as having the 2nd 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 1st highest in Texas.

Still not the best news for Roma.

6. Hempstead

Hempstead, Texas

Population: 6,727
Median Income: $30,661
Unemployment Rate: 19.7%
Poverty Rate: 35.6%
More on Hempstead: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Hempstead ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Lone Star State.

It ranks as having the 14th highest incidence of poverty and the 2nd highest unemployment rate.

7. Alton


Population: 15,581
Median Income: $31,621
Unemployment Rate: 15.3%
Poverty Rate: 36.9%
More on Alton: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Alton places as the seventh poorest city in Texas.

The city of over 15,581 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.

8. Mercedes

Mercedes, Texas

Population: 16,501
Median Income: $29,706
Unemployment Rate: 11.8%
Poverty Rate: 37.9%
More on Mercedes: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Mercedes ranks as the eighth poorest city in Texas.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 21st highest in the state.

9. Marlin

Marlin, Texas

Population: 5,705
Median Income: $25,259
Unemployment Rate: 10.9%
Poverty Rate: 41.9%
More on Marlin: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Marlin couldn’t stay out of the top ten poorest places in Texas; it ranks number 9.

While the median income is the 8th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Marlin ranks as having the 5th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Texas.

User comment that mentions Marlin: I wouldn’t call Bellmead or Marlin south Texas’…….’

Your comment could be here. Add a comment on a city or town.

10. San Benito


Population: 24,442
Median Income: $26,736
Unemployment Rate: 11.2%
Poverty Rate: 37.5%
More on San Benito: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Texas is San Benito.

The city of 24,442 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Lone Star State.

There You Have It – The Poorest Places In Texas For 2018

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

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 Texas, according to data:

Richest: Terrell Hills
2nd Richest: Bellaire
3rd Richest: Trophy Club

For more Texas reading , check out:

  • 10 Best Places To Live In Texas
  • 10 Safest Places In Texas
  • 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Texas
  • Detailed List Of The Poorest Cities In Texas

    Rank City Poverty Rate
    1 Elsa 46.5%
    2 Commerce 47.3%
    3 Prairie View 46.0%
    4 Raymondville 40.7%
    5 Roma 50.7%
    6 Hempstead 35.6%
    7 Alton 36.9%
    8 Mercedes 37.9%
    9 Marlin 41.9%
    10 San Benito 37.5%
    11 Donna 36.2%
    12 Center 27.6%
    13 Robstown 34.0%
    14 Jacinto City 32.6%
    15 Nacogdoches 30.0%
    16 Jasper 28.2%
    17 Crockett 39.3%
    18 Port Arthur 29.3%
    19 Mexia 25.0%
    20 Cleveland 26.7%
    21 San Marcos 35.8%
    22 Brownsville 32.8%
    23 Freeport 27.5%
    24 Bonham 24.6%
    25 Wharton 27.8%
    26 Socorro 29.9%
    27 Rio Grande City 32.7%
    28 Lacy-Lakeview 28.0%
    29 Hillsboro 28.8%
    30 Harlingen 31.3%
    31 Diboll 25.2%
    32 San Juan 35.3%
    33 Paris 27.2%
    34 La Feria 23.4%
    35 Palmview 30.3%
    36 Hidalgo 28.2%
    37 Kingsville 26.3%
    38 Alamo 31.6%
    39 Greenville 23.9%
    40 Cameron 19.8%
    41 Terrell 24.4%
    42 Atlanta 22.8%
    43 Carrizo Springs 19.3%
    44 Silsbee 28.8%
    45 Texarkana 25.1%
    46 Gonzales 24.8%
    47 Mathis 28.4%
    48 Corsicana 22.4%
    49 Eagle Pass 25.2%
    50 Mineral Wells 24.0%
    51 Pharr 31.1%
    52 Wake Village 29.2%
    53 Forest Hill 27.6%
    54 Huntsville 36.4%
    55 Elgin 24.7%
    56 Weslaco 25.0%
    57 Crystal City 33.1%
    58 Burnet 34.2%
    59 Everman 20.0%
    60 Waco 27.5%
    61 Bellmead 23.8%
    62 Humble 18.5%
    63 Mission 24.0%
    64 Gainesville 24.9%
    65 Galveston 22.8%
    66 Texas City 21.4%
    67 Rockdale 15.6%
    68 College Station 33.1%
    69 Athens 25.0%
    70 Del Rio 22.2%
    71 Marshall 23.0%
    72 Hitchcock 24.0%
    73 Hutchins 27.1%
    74 Decatur 23.3%
    75 Childress 26.0%
    76 Orange 21.8%
    77 Lufkin 21.7%
    78 Sulphur Springs 26.4%
    79 Progreso 30.6%
    80 Denison 19.1%
    81 Uvalde 22.4%
    82 Anthony 18.6%
    83 Jacksonville 32.0%
    84 Sweetwater 19.8%
    85 South Houston 23.7%
    86 Lampasas 21.2%
    87 Cuero 19.7%
    88 La Marque 16.7%
    89 Gatesville 19.0%
    90 Edinburg 26.6%
    91 Port Lavaca 22.3%
    92 Port Isabel 31.4%
    93 Gun Barrel City 21.2%
    94 Breckenridge 28.4%
    95 Pearsall 22.6%
    96 Mcallen 25.7%
    97 Laredo 31.3%
    98 Gilmer 17.0%
    99 Beeville 23.7%
    100 Bowie 17.8%

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