These Are The 10 Poorest Cities In Virginia For 2018


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

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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 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 2018:

  1. Emporia (Photos)
  2. Petersburg (Photos)
  3. Radford (Photos)
  4. Farmville (Photos)
  5. Martinsville (Photos)
  6. Danville (Photos)
  7. South Boston (Photos)
  8. Pulaski (Photos)
  9. Wytheville (Photos)
  10. Big Stone Gap (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 2018.

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.

How We Determined The Poorest Places In Virginia 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 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 2018’.

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

1. Emporia

Emporia, Virginia

Source: Public domain

Population: 5,565
Median Income: $27,169
Unemployment Rate: 18.8%
Poverty Rate: 33.0%
More on Emporia: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

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

The city of 5,565 people averages the 1st lowest median household income in Virginia and the 5th 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. Petersburg

Petersburg, Virginia

Population: 31,997
Median Income: $32,169
Unemployment Rate: 13.7%
Poverty Rate: 29.4%
More on Petersburg: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

The second poorest city in Virginia is Petersburg.

The city ranks as having the 6th highest incidence of poverty and 8th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate ‘only’ ranks as the 3rd highest in the Old Dominion.

User comment that mentions Petersburg: in Norfolk, gunshots are so common that no one calls them in, and 24 hours a day we hear sirens up and down Little Creek rd. And really: Newport News may have snatched the Murder Capitol title from Petersburg; gang/drug violence is worse there than it is here in Norfolk. pretty spot-on article.

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

3. Radford

Radford, Virginia

Population: 17,186
Median Income: $31,457
Unemployment Rate: 9.2%
Poverty Rate: 39.3%
More on Radford: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Placing as the third poorest city, Radford’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 39.3% 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.

4. Farmville

Farmville, Virginia

Source: Public domain

Population: 8,562
Median Income: $35,084
Unemployment Rate: 10.2%
Poverty Rate: 35.0%
More on Farmville: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Farmville ranks as the fourth poorest place in Virginia.

The town ranks as having the 15th 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.

5. Martinsville

Martinsville, Virginia

Population: 13,551
Median Income: $31,719
Unemployment Rate: 10.0%
Poverty Rate: 24.1%
More on Martinsville: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

The fifth poorest city in Virginia is Martinsville.

The city ranks as having the 6th 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 17th highest in Virginia.

Still not the best news for Martinsville.

User comment that mentions Martinsville: Yes, this research’ is bull crap. It’s just a novelty item. Interesting that so many of the worst cities are southwest, or southeast. It’s just something to create a disturbance, or celebration, or dismay. I live in Martinsville VA.’

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

6. Danville

Danville, Virginia

Source: Public domain

Population: 42,360
Median Income: $33,721
Unemployment Rate: 11.8%
Poverty Rate: 22.5%
More on Danville: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

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

It ranks as having the 20th highest incidence of poverty and the 4th highest unemployment rate.

User comment that mentions Danville: I was born in Danville hospital and raised in Chatham mostly but I was raised in Henry and Patrick County, but I consider Chatham Va my home. Wonderful people and would give you the shirt off their back. I may have lived a lot of places but Chatham will always be home.

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

7. South Boston

South Boston, Virginia

Population: 8,000
Median Income: $31,885
Unemployment Rate: 7.4%
Poverty Rate: 28.4%
More on South Boston: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

South Boston places as the seventh poorest city in Virginia.

The city of over 8,000 ranks as having the 7th 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. Pulaski

Pulaski, Virginia

Population: 8,918
Median Income: $37,228
Unemployment Rate: 11.3%
Poverty Rate: 22.7%
More on Pulaski: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

Pulaski ranks as the eighth poorest city in Virginia.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 5th highest in the state.

User comment that mentions Pulaski: Im sorry you guys are offended but unfortunately this is pretty accurate…ive lived roanoke pulaski and galax and i dont know if any of yall remember this or know about this but pulaski made the cover of time magazine…called little chicago…has the worst oxyco tin abuse per capita than any other city in the us at the time…now that dr cheek is gone it might not be as bad now…friend of mi e was shot in the back in galax and a methodone clinic is there…and another friend is a dentist…meth mouth keeps her in business

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

9. Wytheville

Wytheville, Virginia

Population: 8,167
Median Income: $36,010
Unemployment Rate: 9.4%
Poverty Rate: 24.5%
More on Wytheville: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

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

While the median income is the 18th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Wytheville ranks as having the 15th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Virginia.

User comment that mentions Wytheville: Oh my goodness! This guy is crazy! I live in Wytheville! I moved here from Northern VA and it is so nice here. Slower pace, quiet, beautiful, peaceful, no traffic, no noise, everyone is so nice, friendly and will give you the shirt off their back. Everyone waves to you whether they know you or not. There are great restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, a wal mart supercenter, etc. Just not so much that you are overwhelmed. And Christiansburg is only an hour away. It isn’t very expensive to live here either. Taxes are low, police dept is awesome, and there are jobs if you are willing to work. If I wanted city life, I would have stayed in Northern VA!

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

10. Big Stone Gap

Big Stone Gap, Virginia

Population: 5,462
Median Income: $36,811
Unemployment Rate: 9.0%
Poverty Rate: 26.2%
More on Big Stone Gap: Add A Comment | Data | Jobs

And rounding out the top ten poorest cities in Virginia is Big Stone Gap.

The city of 5,462 people ranks in the bottom 20% for both median income and poverty rate in the Old Dominion.

User comment that mentions Big Stone Gap: This article is most certainly accurate. I have lived in Big Stone Gap for nearly sixteen years, almost my entire life. Moreover, I must imply, if your not a teacher, do not obtain a position in a hospital, or work at a jail, then you will waste your time trying to find a satisfactory stream of income here. One of the main sources for wealth in several of the areas listed, was the coal industry. As anyone can guess, most of the firms have released their employees’ positions because of the strict regulations that the Obama administration has placed. Which leads to towns such as this one, to become quite poor and it increases the crime rate, the unemployment rate, and the decrease of pay for anyone who works around here. For an example, the teachers around here, have not had a raise in six to eight years. Thus, from my perspective, Big Stone is EXTREMELY boring and quite depressing. Yes, there may be nice views of the mountains and many outdoor activities to do, but most people around here are too busy working double time to support their family. In addition, even if the people had time to go out and do whatever he/she desires, there is absolutely nothing to do besides exercise in the park, eat at Little Mexico, and go to Wal-Mart.|| For more negative, true connotations, Big Stone Gap is a decreasing, economic slope and retirement home. There is nothing to do for teenagers, including me and everyone within Union High School, and the only jobs available for anyone who does not have a college degree, is Food City and Pizza Hut. It is pitiful, saddening, and I hope the situation of the area turns out for the best in the future. However, for now, it has most definitely been through better and stronger days.||||P.S.||Food City is a larger employer than any of the coal companies around this area.

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

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: Poquoson
3rd Richest: Purcellville

For more Virginia reading , check out:

  • 10 Most Ghetto Cities In Virginia
  • 10 Most Dangerous Cities In Virginia
  • 10 Best Places To Live In Virginia
  • Detailed List Of The Poorest Cities In Virginia

    Rank City Poverty Rate
    1 Emporia 33.0%
    2 Petersburg 29.4%
    3 Radford 39.3%
    4 Farmville 35.0%
    5 Martinsville 24.1%
    6 Danville 22.5%
    7 South Boston 28.4%
    8 Pulaski 22.7%
    9 Wytheville 24.5%
    10 Big Stone Gap 26.2%
    11 Marion 25.0%
    12 Buena Vista 27.6%
    13 Blacksburg 44.7%
    14 Richlands 22.3%
    15 Galax 25.0%
    16 Richmond 25.4%
    17 Franklin 16.7%
    18 Woodstock 25.4%
    19 Hopewell 20.5%
    20 Bristol 20.6%
    21 Norfolk 21.0%
    22 Harrisonburg 33.1%
    23 Portsmouth 18.2%
    24 Roanoke 22.2%
    25 Lynchburg 24.3%
    26 Williamsburg 22.8%
    27 Abingdon 19.8%
    28 Covington 21.4%
    29 Dumfries 19.3%
    30 Front Royal 16.5%
    31 Hampton 15.6%
    32 Vinton 12.0%
    33 Newport News 16.1%
    34 Lexington 18.4%
    35 Colonial Heights 12.9%
    36 Smithfield 14.3%
    37 Fredericksburg 16.6%
    38 Charlottesville 25.9%
    39 Waynesboro 16.0%
    40 Staunton 15.8%
    41 Culpeper 13.9%
    42 Winchester 14.6%
    43 Bluefield 10.7%
    44 Ashland 18.0%
    45 Suffolk 11.5%
    46 Strasburg 11.1%
    47 Chesapeake 9.5%
    48 Salem 9.4%
    49 Manassas 8.7%
    50 Virginia Beach 8.2%
    51 Warrenton 7.4%
    52 Christiansburg 8.7%
    53 Herndon 7.4%
    54 Alexandria 9.8%
    55 Fairfax 6.2%
    56 Manassas Park 8.7%
    57 Bridgewater 4.9%
    58 Falls Church 2.7%
    59 Leesburg 5.7%
    60 Purcellville 4.4%
    61 Poquoson 4.7%
    62 Vienna 3.7%

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