Personal Finance

The Poorest Areas in America

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In the annual American Community Survey, the U.S. Census Bureau releases statistics on the population. Age, race, location, income — these and more are outlined in the report, and the 2012 survey, released this month, gave insight into the country’s wealth distribution.

Last year, the median U.S. household income was $51,371. To determine which areas have the highest and lowest median incomes, we used the bureau’s American Fact Finder tool to sort the data of 2,120 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. (Update: these areas are defined by particular city names, but may include areas adjacent to or beyond the city limits.)

Much like the high-income areas, the low-income areas showed an interesting geographical makeup. Nine of the 10 lowest median incomes are found in the South, as it is defined by the Census Bureau.

Conversely, the high-income areas showed more geographical diversity. While half of the them are on the East Coast, including the areas surrounding Washington, the other five are in California, Hawaii and Alaska. The high-income areas reported a median income of more than $69,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the low-income areas don’t go above $32,860. Three of them are in North Carolina, two are in Texas and the only area outside the South is in New Mexico. Other states with areas on the list are Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia. Virginia is the only state to have areas on both ends of the median-income spectrum.

And as far as population goes, the high-income areas are generally larger than the low-income ones. The Census Bureau defines a metro area as containing a “core urban area of 50,000 or more population, and a micro area contains an urban core of at least 10,000 (but less than 50,000) population.”

Only one of the high-income areas is a micro area, and only two of the low-income areas are metro. Population didn’t directly correlate to the area’s rank in its list. For this list, we used the 2011 population estimates, as those are the most recent available for these areas.

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The 10 Lowest Median Incomes in the U.S.

10. Dalton, Ga.

  • Population: 142,741
  • Income: $32,858

9. Forest City, N.C.

  • Population: 67,538
  • Income: $32,836

8. Nacogdoches, Texas

  • Population: 65,466
  • Income: $32,555

7. Martinsville, Va.

  • Population: 67,300
  • Income: $32,196

6. Cookeville, Tenn.

  • Population: 106,498
  • Income: $31,813

5. Talladega-Sylacauga, Ala.

  • Population: 81,664
  • Income: $31,547

4. Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas

  • Population: 414,123
  • Income: $30,953

3. Roanoke Rapids, N.C.

  • Population: 76,066
  • Income:$29,930

2. Gallup, N.M.

  • Population: 73,664
  • Income: $29,696

1. Lumberton, N.C.

  • Population: 135,517
  • Income: $28,293

Image: iStock

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