These Are The 10 Poorest Cities In Virginia For 2019

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

Join RoadSnacks
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 2019. This is our fourth time ranking the poorest places in Virginia.

Swipe left for slideshow. Article continues below.

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 62 places in Virginia with more than 5,000 people.

We were left with this set of the ten poorest places in the Old Dominion for 2019:

  1. Emporia (Photos)
  2. Petersburg (Photos)
  3. South Boston (Photos)
  4. Martinsville (Photos)
  5. Danville (Photos)
  6. Radford (Photos)
  7. Woodstock (Photos)
  8. Big Stone Gap (Photos)
  9. Richlands (Photos)
  10. Pulaski (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, Emporia is the poorest place in Virginia for 2019.

Rich people not 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:

How We Determined The Poorest Places In Virginia for 2019

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 2013-2017 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 62 places with more than 5,000 people in Virginia, we ranked each place from 1 to 62 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 2019”.

You can learn more about the top ten below or skip to the end to see the rankings for all 62 places.

Emporia, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,495
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $27,426 (1st lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 20.4% (1st highest)
Poverty Rate: 30.9% (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 5,495 people averages the 1st 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


Population: 32,037
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Income: $33,939 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 12.2% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 27.6% (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.

South Boston, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,887
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 4)
Median Income: $34,551 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (9th highest)
Poverty Rate: 26.4% (7th highest)
More on South Boston:  Data | Photos

Placing as the third poorest city, South Boston’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 26.4% 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.

Martinsville, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 13,256
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Income: $33,545 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.3% (15th highest)
Poverty Rate: 24.0% (12th highest)
More on Martinsville:  Data | Photos

Martinsville ranks as the fourth poorest place in Virginia.

The town ranks as having the 5th lowest median household income and the 11th 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


Population: 41,911
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Income: $34,951 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 10.1% (6th highest)
Poverty Rate: 21.5% (18th highest)
More on Danville:  Data | Photos

The fifth poorest city in Virginia is Danville.

The city ranks as having the 9th 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.

Radford, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 17,380
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 3)
Median Income: $36,082 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.5% (22nd highest)
Poverty Rate: 37.5% (2nd highest)
More on Radford:  Data | Photos

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

It ranks as having the 2nd highest incidence of poverty and the 21st highest unemployment rate.

Woodstock, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,169
Rank Last Year: 18 (Up 11)
Median Income: $36,104 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.0% (10th highest)
Poverty Rate: 23.6% (14th highest)
More on Woodstock:  Data | Photos

Woodstock places as the seventh poorest city in Virginia.

The city of over 5,169 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.

Big Stone Gap, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,395
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 1)
Median Income: $40,619 (19th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (17th highest)
Poverty Rate: 26.1% (8th highest)
More on Big Stone Gap:  Data | Photos

Big Stone Gap ranks as the eighth poorest city in Virginia.

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

Richlands, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,513
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 5)
Median Income: $28,410 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (27th highest)
Poverty Rate: 22.1% (16th highest)
More on Richlands:  Data | Photos

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

While the median income is the 2nd lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Richlands ranks as having the 16th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Virginia.

Pulaski, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,860
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 2)
Median Income: $40,711 (20th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.2% (4th highest)
Poverty Rate: 21.3% (22nd highest)
More on Pulaski:  Data | Photos

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

The city of 8,860 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Old Dominion.

There You Have It – The Poorest Places In Virginia For 2019

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: Falls Church
    3rd Richest: Leesburg

For more Virginia reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Virginia

Rank City Population Poverty Rate
1 Emporia 5,495 30.9%
2 Petersburg 32,037 27.6%
3 South Boston 7,887 26.4%
4 Martinsville 13,256 24.0%
5 Danville 41,911 21.5%
6 Radford 17,380 37.5%
7 Woodstock 5,169 23.6%
8 Big Stone Gap 5,395 26.1%
9 Richlands 5,513 22.1%
10 Pulaski 8,860 21.3%
11 Richmond 220,892 25.2%
12 Franklin 8,334 16.6%
13 Hopewell 22,353 21.2%
14 Wytheville 8,041 24.0%
15 Bristol 17,077 21.3%
16 Marion 5,814 23.6%
17 Galax 6,788 21.2%
18 Farmville 8,452 35.9%
19 Blacksburg 44,079 43.7%
20 Lynchburg 79,237 22.3%
21 Roanoke 99,572 21.6%
22 Portsmouth 95,536 17.7%
23 Harrisonburg 53,064 29.0%
24 Norfolk 245,752 21.0%
25 Covington 5,675 19.9%
26 Abingdon 8,044 17.6%
27 Buena Vista 6,495 20.8%
28 Vinton 8,069 14.0%
29 Colonial Heights 17,582 13.2%
30 Williamsburg 14,817 21.5%
31 Lexington 7,113 21.4%
32 Front Royal 15,027 15.6%
33 Newport News 180,775 16.4%
34 Hampton 136,255 14.9%
35 Waynesboro 21,620 17.4%
36 Smithfield 8,262 14.2%
37 Charlottesville 46,487 24.5%
38 Fredericksburg 28,135 16.3%
39 Ashland 7,554 17.1%
40 Culpeper 17,882 13.9%
41 Suffolk 88,057 11.2%
42 Dumfries 5,216 15.0%
43 Staunton 24,273 13.3%
44 Winchester 27,516 12.5%
45 Manassas 41,379 8.8%
46 Chesapeake 235,410 9.6%
47 Manassas Park 16,117 10.3%
48 Salem 25,521 8.9%
49 Strasburg 6,570 11.3%
50 Bluefield 5,058 8.6%
51 Virginia Beach 450,057 8.0%
52 Herndon 24,545 6.8%
53 Poquoson 12,022 4.9%
54 Christiansburg 21,892 7.9%
55 Alexandria 154,710 10.5%
56 Purcellville 9,217 3.8%
57 Warrenton 9,854 5.8%
58 Bridgewater 5,930 4.3%
59 Fairfax 23,580 7.8%
60 Leesburg 51,015 4.9%
61 Falls Church 13,843 2.9%
62 Vienna 16,474 3.2%


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *