10 Poorest Cities In The United States: This Will Shock You 

Are there poor cities in the United States of America, given that the country is called an economic superpower? 

For the records, America boasts the largest economy in the world, around 25% of the entire global economy.

So yes, America is truly blessed. It has a vast amount of minerals, human resources, technology and others. 

The world sees America as the perfect country, one that everything figured out. But while there are rich folks in the United States of America, there are also middle-class and poor individuals. 

So, what are the poorest cities in the United States of America? Firstly, note that this article is for educational purposes. We didn’t research and draft it to mock America or any of its cities.

So, are you ready to learn more about America’s poorest cities? If yes, let’s get started. 

1: Detroit, Michigan:

The first on the list is Detroit, a city occupied by 6, 72,351 people. It has a 14% unemployment rate, higher than any other city in the United States of America. 

Shockingly, Detroit was the largest city in the country to declare bankruptcy. The region’s poverty rate even reached a point that they had to shut down water supplies to thousands of households that failed to pay their water bills. 

Now, how did Detroit get to this low point? For the record, this city had a great economic prospect. It all started in 2014, following the United States auto industry’s decline. 

The plan to drop around $7 billion from the city’s massive debt of around $18 billion has helped it to exit bankruptcy. But unfortunately, many people living in Detroit are still below the poverty line. 

So, yes, Detroit is America’s least employed, most impoverished, and it was once named the most miserable city to live in by Forbes. However, Detroit is no longer the most miserable city in the United States.

Unfortunately, this city is filled with empty homes, as over 60% of the population has left, for obvious reasons. You can even purchase a home for as little as $1 in Detroit. 

Detroit’s poverty rating is 33.2%, making it the poorest city in the United States of America

2: Cleveland, Ohio:

Cleveland is the second poorest city in the United States, with a 12.4% unemployment rate. The city’s median income is $35,562.

Cleveland’s population is approximately 383,331. Plus, there’s no racial or ethnic majority in the city. 

So, the question is this: why is Cleveland poor? Well, the answer is obvious. A lot is going on in the city that anyone can call anti-growth. 

Cleveland’s residents pay hefty taxes, despite the poverty and unemployment rate. Unfortunately, the heavy corruption in the city and the dismal weather isn’t helping the city’s drive in the fight against poverty. 

So, you can see that Cleveland’s decline is traceable to several factors. Some are man-made (corruption, hefty taxes), and some are natural (dismal weather). 

Another reason for Cleveland’s decline is the out-migration of residents. Cuyahoga County has already started feeling the heat, as tons of residents are leaving the area.

Another question is, why are people leaving Cleveland for other parts of the country?

Several factors are responsible. According to United Van Lines, “work” is one of the reasons people are leaving Ohio, in general. The unemployment rate in Cleveland is nothing to write home about. The city’s unemployment rate is 32.0%.

Another reason people are leaving Ohio itself is retirement. According to the survey Van Lines Conducted, retirement appeared as the second reason. 

The other reasons people are leaving in large numbers include family, lifestyle, and health. 

Data from the 2020 US censors shows that Cleveland’s population shrank by around 6% in the last 10 years. 

Unfortunately, Cleveland’s sports team isn’t helping residents forget their miseries and financial plight. The city has a mediocre sports team. 

Note: Despite the negatives about Cleveland, a lot has been happening around the city lately. 

Several great restaurants are springing up, and it’s only a matter of time before the unemployment rate drops massively. 

Again, Clevelanders are fantastic people. Conduct a simple search online using the keyword “Cleveland.” You’ll find information about the tremendous things that have started happening in the city. 

But hear this: Clevelanders haven’t given up hope yet. On the contrary, they believe their city will rise again. 

We’re with you, Clevelanders. It’s only a matter of time before it happens. 

3: Dayton, Ohio: 

Unfortunately, Dayton is among the poorest cities in the United States. We’re talking about a city with over 140,444 people. 

Dayton has a poverty rate of 29.6 percent, indicating that the city’s economic situation hasn’t really improved.

In 2018, the city’s poverty rating was 29.4%. So, it’s glaring that things have gotten worse over the years (we hope things get better soon anyway). 

Was Dayton a poor city from its early days? The answer is no! Dayton had a dramatic and impressive rise in the 20th Century. However, several factors truncated the once-prosperous city’s rise to the top. 

What are the factors responsible for Dayton’s decline? The city’s de-facto racial segregation failed revitalization projects, and the poorly educated workforce precipitated its decline throughout the 21st Century. 

If you understand Dayton’s history, you’ll understand why residents have every right to be angry at its sudden decline. 

Dayton was founded in 1880. And from then until 1930, it experienced massive population growth. 

Dayton, the city struggling with high unemployment and poverty today, was the region’s innovation hub back then. And it wasn’t even a one-industry city. 

Today the city’s population has drastically reduced. As a result, people who have the financial means are no longer finding any tangible reason to spend the rest of their lives in Dayton.

Furthermore, Dayton’s unemployment rate is 10.3%.

A Handy Tip: Dayton’s economy has moved from manufacturing to services. In addition, the city has experienced relative stability, but much work still needs to be done. 

However, the city’s fortune can change sooner than later if those at the helm of affairs take the proper steps. One of them is to lower property and income tax rates drastically. 

4: Hartford, Connecticut:

Hartford is Connecticut’s capital city, named on February 21, 1637. But sadly, it’s one of the poorest cities in the United States of America. 

Hartford has an unemployment rate of 11.3% and a population of around 122,549 people. 

But how did this city get to this point? Surprisingly, Hartford was the wealthiest city in the United States of America, a position it held for several decades following the civil war. 

Called the “Insurance Capital of the World,” Hartford is home to the headquarters of several insurance companies. 

It is shocking to see a one-time rich city become the 4th poorest in the United States. The out-migration Hartford suffered around 1995 made it poorer than it was five years ago. 

Thousands of people left the city back then, and more are still fleeing today. The reason the city’s fortune declined was that the people who left were those that had moderate income and the ones that were seeking a suburban lifestyle. 

The people left behind were those who didn’t have the financial capacity to exit the city. In Hartford, a typical household earns around $24,820. 

5: Rochester, New York:

The situation in Rochester is so terrible that over half of the city’s children live in poverty. Additionally, 90% of the city’s school district children are economically disadvantaged. 

Rochester has a population of 206,357 people and a poverty rate of approximately 30.4%. 

But how was the city’s fortune back then? Well, shockingly, Rochester was one of the cities many Americans would do anything to move to. 

The city was home to the headquarters of several large corporations, but this was in the 70s and 80s. However, the city’s administrators got greedy and started placing hefty taxes on companies, causing many to leave for other cities.

The departures of these firms that once flooded Rochester and made its economy attractive, paved the way for the city’s decline. As a result, the unemployment rate is 8.9%.

6: Newark, New Jersey:

Nicknamed the “Brick City” because of its massive brick housing projects (though many of these houses have been destroyed), Newark is another poor city in the United States. 

Houses are cheap in Newark for apparent reasons. Furthermore, Newark fares poorly in critical areas like crime, education, and taxes. 

The low house prices draw low-income families to the city, but the high crime rate still scares many. The city has a crime rate of 110 crimes per 1000 individuals. 

In other words, the possibility of someone becoming a victim in Newark is 1 in 203. Furthermore, property crime is 1 in 65. 

Newark’s population is 281,917, and its poverty rate is 26.3%. So, you can see that many people are wallowing in poverty, despite the revitalization the city has been experiencing in recent years.

Furthermore, the unemployment situation hasn’t improved much, though it’s still better than Detroit’s. For example, the unemployment rate in Newark is 10.6%. 

7: Jackson, Mississippi:

Jackson, MS, is another impoverished city in the United States, with a population of around 163,778.

This city has an unemployment rate of 11.4% and a poverty rate of 24.5%. And it is wrestling with unemployment, infrastructure, and water issues. 

Jackson lies on Mississippi’s western border. And as you already know, a large portion of the state’s western border is wallowing in poverty. 

8: Syracuse, New York:

Syracuse is regarded as a regional hub for entertainment in the United States. It boasts several art galleries, museums, performance spaces, and others. 

Syracuse also hosts several great events every year, with the Great New York State Fair among the highly anticipated events in the city annually. The fair is also a student favorite. 

Unfortunately, this vibrant city has been wrestling with poverty for years, though the latest figures from the census indicate that things are improving gradually.

Syracuse has a population of 142,553 and a poverty rate of 30.3%. Unemployment is a big issue in this city, though their situation is far better than Detroit’s.  

Syracuse’s unemployment rate is 9.6%. Furthermore, a recent census report indicates that Syracuse boasts the worst child poverty rate among cities with over 100,000 residents. 

Shockingly, this city boasts immaculate public parks and Victoria-style homes with gigantic porches. But it is still wallowing in poverty. 

9: Toledo, Ohio

Toledo is Ohio’s fourth most populous city. It has a population of around 275,116 people. 

Shockingly, Toledo’s poverty rate is the highest in Ohio. At least 40% of the residents are living below the poverty line. 

Toledo’s unemployment rate shows it is doing better than Detroit, which is a huge plus. Its unemployment rate is 8.7%. Additionally, the city’s poverty rate is 25.6%.

Another thing you need to know about Toledo is that its cost-of-living index is 87. This figure shows that the city is 13% more affordable than the national average. 

A Handy Tip: Ottawa Hills is by far the wealthiest community you’ll find in Toledo. 

It boasts the highest home value and highest income. The median household income of residents is $111,344.

Toledo’s primary industry is automotive. For over 100 years, this city has functioned as the main destination for the development and production that took place in the automotive industry in Ohio and the United States. 

What about the crime rate in Toledo? Firstly, don’t let the name “Holy Toledo” trick you. People call Toledo the “Holy City,” but there’s nothing holy about the city, considering its crime rate. 

One’s chance of being a victim of property or violent crime is 1 in 25 people. However, it has a crime rate of 39 out of 1000 people. 

Gangsters named it “Holy Toledo.” Why? They reached an agreement with the police that if they’re left alone, they’ll stop troubling the city. 

So, since the agreement gave the gangsters a sanctuary, they started calling the city “Holy Toledo.”

10: Allentown, Pennsylvania:

Located in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, Allentown is the third largest city in PA. It boasts four hospitals, including two nationally ranked colleges. 

That is not all. Allentown boasts several parks, restaurants, and coffee shops, and it’s quite a vibrant city to live in. It also boasts a population of around 121,156 people. 

Now, how poor is Allentown? Again, this city is better than Detroit, at least for now. Its unemployment rate is 10.0, while the poverty rate is 25.6%.  

A Handy Tip: Allentown boasts the lowest median family income in the whole Valley. 


So, these are the 10 poorest cities in the United States of America. They have a high poverty and unemployment rate, as you can see. 

Will things improve for residents in these cities? Of course, things will get better over time. The only concern is how quickly they can turn their fortunes around.

Poverty can give rise to numerous vices. One of them is increased crime rate. You can see the crime rates of the cities mentioned in this post. 

Francis Stein
Francis Stein
Francis Stein is a writer and traveler who has already traveled most of the states of America. He loves to explore new places and meet new people, and he hopes to continue traveling the world in search of adventure. Francis enjoys writing about his experiences as a way of sharing his love for exploration with others.


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