Poorest Cities In Virginia For 2021

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 2021. This is our seventh time ranking the poorest places in Virginia.

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 2021:

  1. Emporia
  2. Petersburg
  3. Richlands
  4. Marion
  5. Farmville
  6. Galax
  7. Danville
  8. Hopewell
  9. Pulaski
  10. Martinsville

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 2021.

Rich people more your cup of tea? Feel free to check out the best 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 2021

1. Emporia

Emporia, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,442
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Income: $27,063 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 23.4% (highest)
Poverty Rate: 27.0% (6th 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 5,442 people averages the lowest median household income in Virginia and the 6th 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, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 31,362
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Income: $38,679 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 11.7% (3rd highest)
Poverty Rate: 24.1% (12th highest)
More on Petersburg:  Data | Photos

The second poorest city in Virginia is Petersburg.

The city ranks as having the 12th highest incidence of poverty and 11th lowest median household income. However, the unemployment rate 'only' ranks as the 3rd highest in the Old Dominion.

3. Richlands

Richlands, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,368
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Median Income: $30,600 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.1% (7th highest)
Poverty Rate: 23.1% (17th highest)
More on Richlands:  Data | Photos

Placing as the third poorest city, Richlands's median income ranks as the 2nd 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 23.12886888013506% 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. Marion

Marion, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,706
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 5)
Median Income: $31,544 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (16th highest)
Poverty Rate: 25.1% (8th highest)
More on Marion:  Data | Photos

Marion ranks as the fourth poorest place in Virginia.

The town ranks as having the 3rd lowest median household income and the 8th 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. Farmville

Farmville, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,117
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 2)
Median Income: $35,995 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.2% (20th highest)
Poverty Rate: 29.7% (3rd highest)
More on Farmville:  Data | Photos

The fifth poorest city in Virginia is Farmville.

The city ranks as having the 7th 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 Virginia.

Still not the best news for Farmville.

6. Galax

Galax, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,517
Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 2)
Median Income: $33,575 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.3% (12th highest)
Poverty Rate: 23.8% (14th highest)
More on Galax:  Data | Photos

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

It ranks as having the 14th highest incidence of poverty and the 12th highest unemployment rate.

7. Danville

Danville, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 41,070
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 2)
Median Income: $37,203 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.5% (5th highest)
Poverty Rate: 22.4% (20th highest)
More on Danville:  Data | Photos

Danville places as the seventh poorest city in Virginia.

The city of over 41,070 ranks as having the 20th 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. Hopewell

Hopewell, VA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 22,456
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 6)
Median Income: $39,030 (12th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.9% (14th highest)
Poverty Rate: 23.6% (15th highest)
More on Hopewell:  Data | Photos

Hopewell ranks as the eighth poorest city in Virginia.

The big issue for the town is the unemployment rate which ranks as the 14th highest in the state.

9. Pulaski

Pulaski, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 8,799
Rank Last Year: 16 (Up 7)
Median Income: $49,665 (28th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.3% (6th highest)
Poverty Rate: 24.7% (9th highest)
More on Pulaski:  Data | Photos

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

While the median income is the 28th lowest, there are a substantial number of people that live below the poverty line. Overall, Pulaski ranks as having the 9th most people living in poverty of all the places we analyzed in Virginia.

10. Martinsville

Martinsville, VA

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 12,852
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 7)
Median Income: $34,371 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.0% (25th highest)
Poverty Rate: 23.9% (13th highest)
More on Martinsville:  Data | Photos

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

The city of 12,852 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 2021

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 2015-2019 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 2021". You can download the data here.

There You Have It - The Poorest Places In Virginia For 2021

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: Leesburg

For more Virginia reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Poorest Places To Live In Virginia

Rank City Population Poverty Rate
1 Emporia 5,442 27.0%
2 Petersburg 31,362 24.1%
3 Richlands 5,368 23.1%
4 Marion 5,706 25.1%
5 Farmville 8,117 29.7%
6 Galax 6,517 23.8%
7 Danville 41,070 22.4%
8 Hopewell 22,456 23.6%
9 Pulaski 8,799 24.7%
10 Martinsville 12,852 23.9%
11 Blacksburg 44,303 43.3%
12 Big Stone Gap 5,257 21.3%
13 Radford 17,691 36.3%
14 Franklin 8,147 14.7%
15 Bristol 16,912 22.6%
16 South Boston 7,762 17.1%
17 Richmond 226,622 23.2%
18 Roanoke 99,229 20.8%
19 Harrisonburg 53,273 28.3%
20 Norfolk 244,601 18.7%
21 Portsmouth 95,097 16.8%
22 Woodstock 5,210 24.4%
23 Wytheville 7,957 22.7%
24 Buena Vista 6,484 25.5%
25 Lynchburg 80,569 19.5%
26 Front Royal 15,077 16.5%
27 Abingdon 7,960 16.2%
28 Lexington 7,241 27.4%
29 Colonial Heights 17,428 12.1%
30 Smithfield 8,367 17.0%
31 Waynesboro 22,140 16.8%
32 Williamsburg 14,927 20.7%
33 Newport News 179,673 15.3%
34 Hampton 135,041 15.2%
35 Charlottesville 47,096 24.1%
36 Dumfries 5,373 18.7%
37 Vinton 8,083 12.2%
38 Covington 5,598 13.2%
39 Suffolk 90,093 10.4%
40 Fredericksburg 28,622 15.5%
41 Strasburg 6,609 10.4%
42 Culpeper 18,342 11.6%
43 Ashland 7,750 12.8%
44 Staunton 24,432 11.1%
45 Winchester 27,897 16.3%
46 Salem 25,317 9.1%
47 Manassas 41,174 8.0%
48 Chesapeake 239,982 8.6%
49 Virginia Beach 450,201 7.3%
50 Christiansburg 22,163 9.9%
51 Manassas Park 16,986 6.4%
52 Bridgewater 6,032 6.0%
53 Fairfax 23,531 9.3%
54 Warrenton 9,913 6.0%
55 Alexandria 157,613 10.3%
56 Herndon 24,532 5.9%
57 Purcellville 9,897 3.0%
58 Falls Church 14,128 3.2%
59 Leesburg 52,994 5.0%
60 Poquoson 12,090 5.6%
61 Vienna 16,489 2.8%

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