Poorest Cities In Virginia For 2020


We used science and data to determine which places in Virginia 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 Virginia.

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

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

To do so, we analyzed the newest Census data from the American Community Survey for the 61 places in Virginia with more than 5,000 people.

Here are the ten poorest places in Virginia for 2020:

  1. Emporia (Photos)
  2. Petersburg (Photos)
  3. Martinsville (Photos)
  4. Richlands (Photos)
  5. Danville (Photos)
  6. Woodstock (Photos)
  7. Farmville (Photos)
  8. Galax (Photos)
  9. Marion (Photos)
  10. Radford (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 Virginia? According to the facts, Emporia is the poorest place in Virginia for 2020.

Rich people more your cup of tea? Feel free to check out the richest places in Virginia 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 Virginia reading, check out:

The 10 Poorest Cities In Virginia For 2020

Emporia, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,381
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $30,857 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 23.3% (1st highest)
Poverty Rate: 29.0% (4th highest)
More on Emporia:  Data | Photos

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

The city of 5,381 people averages the 2nd lowest median household income in Virginia and the 4th 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.

Petersburg, VA

Overall SnackAbility

3
/10

Population: 31,827
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Income: $36,135 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.3% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.8% (6th highest)
More on Petersburg:  Data | Photos

The second poorest city in Virginia is Petersburg.

The city ranks as having the 6th highest incidence of poverty and 7th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate 'only' ranks as the 3rd highest in the Old Dominion.

Martinsville, VA

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 13,101
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Median Income: $33,224 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (12th highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.5% (8th highest)
More on Martinsville:  Data | Photos

Placing as the third poorest city, Martinsville'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 25.453244274809162% 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 Old Dominion.

Richlands, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,439
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Median Income: $30,149 (1st lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (13th highest)
Poverty Rate: 23.0% (13th highest)
More on Richlands:  Data | Photos

Richlands ranks as the fourth poorest place in Virginia.

The town ranks as having the 1st lowest median household income and the 13th 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.

Danville, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 41,512
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Median Income: $36,301 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.2% (6th highest)
Poverty Rate: 21.9% (18th highest)
More on Danville:  Data | Photos

The fifth poorest city in Virginia is Danville.

The city ranks as having the 8th 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 18th highest in Virginia.

Still not the best news for Danville.

Woodstock, VA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,192
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Median Income: $36,659 (10th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.7% (14th highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.2% (9th highest)
More on Woodstock:  Data | Photos

Woodstock ranks as the sixth poorest place in the Old Dominion.

It ranks as having the 9th highest incidence of poverty and the 14th highest unemployment rate.

Farmville, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 8,076
Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 11)
Median Income: $37,722 (13th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.3% (18th highest)
Poverty Rate: 33.1% (3rd highest)
More on Farmville:  Data | Photos

Farmville places as the seventh poorest city in Virginia.

The city of over 8,076 ranks as having the 3rd highest incidence of poverty in the state. However, it has a very low cost of living which helps to pay the bills each month.

Galax, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 6,638
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 9)
Median Income: $31,938 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.4% (26th highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.5% (7th highest)
More on Galax:  Data | Photos

Galax ranks as the eighth poorest city in Virginia.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 26th highest in the state.

Marion, VA

Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 5,787
Rank Last Year: 16 (Up 7)
Median Income: $33,138 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.2% (20th highest)
Poverty Rate: 22.9% (14th highest)
More on Marion:  Data | Photos

Marion couldn't stay out of the top ten poorest places in Virginia; it ranks number 9.

While the median income is the 4th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Marion ranks as having the 14th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Virginia.

Radford, VA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 17,630
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 4)
Median Income: $36,743 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.9% (30th highest)
Poverty Rate: 35.9% (2nd highest)
More on Radford:  Data | Photos

And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Virginia is Radford.

The city of 17,630 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Old Dominion.

How We Determined The Poorest Places In Virginia 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 61 places with more than 5,000 people in Virginia, we ranked each place from 1 to 61 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, Emporia, crowned the "Poorest Place In Virginia For 2020". You can download the data here.

There You Have It - The Poorest Places In Virginia For 2020

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

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 Virginia, according to data:

    Richest: Vienna
    2nd Richest: Leesburg
    3rd Richest: Falls Church

For more Virginia reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Virginia

Rank City Population Poverty Rate
1 Emporia 5,381 29.0%
2 Petersburg 31,827 25.8%
3 Martinsville 13,101 25.5%
4 Richlands 5,439 23.0%
5 Danville 41,512 21.9%
6 Woodstock 5,192 25.2%
7 Farmville 8,076 33.1%
8 Galax 6,638 25.5%
9 Marion 5,787 22.9%
10 Radford 17,630 35.9%
11 Big Stone Gap 5,326 22.9%
12 Blacksburg 44,245 45.0%
13 Richmond 223,787 24.5%
14 Hopewell 22,408 21.0%
15 Franklin 8,211 16.2%
16 Pulaski 8,794 21.9%
17 Wytheville 8,000 23.9%
18 Bristol 16,843 22.7%
19 Roanoke 99,621 20.5%
20 Portsmouth 95,311 17.2%
21 Norfolk 245,592 19.7%
22 Lynchburg 80,131 21.8%
23 Abingdon 8,020 18.2%
24 Williamsburg 14,788 22.4%
25 Harrisonburg 53,391 28.2%
26 South Boston 7,828 17.7%
27 Lexington 7,110 21.6%
28 Colonial Heights 17,593 13.5%
29 Front Royal 15,240 16.0%
30 Smithfield 8,324 15.0%
31 Buena Vista 6,399 20.1%
32 Hampton 135,583 15.8%
33 Newport News 180,145 15.5%
34 Covington 5,582 15.2%
35 Vinton 8,074 12.2%
36 Waynesboro 21,926 17.4%
37 Charlottesville 47,042 24.6%
38 Dumfries 5,224 19.2%
39 Ashland 7,655 19.7%
40 Strasburg 6,585 10.7%
41 Suffolk 89,160 10.8%
42 Fredericksburg 28,469 14.1%
43 Staunton 24,452 13.7%
44 Salem 25,519 9.1%
45 Manassas Park 16,423 9.7%
46 Winchester 27,789 15.0%
47 Culpeper 18,113 12.0%
48 Manassas 41,457 8.6%
49 Chesapeake 237,820 9.0%
50 Virginia Beach 450,135 7.6%
51 Christiansburg 22,049 8.1%
52 Poquoson 12,039 4.5%
53 Warrenton 9,873 6.0%
54 Bridgewater 5,983 6.5%
55 Alexandria 156,505 10.6%
56 Herndon 24,520 6.7%
57 Fairfax 23,865 8.7%
58 Purcellville 9,709 2.2%
59 Falls Church 14,067 2.7%
60 Leesburg 52,125 4.9%
61 Vienna 16,488 2.4%

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