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America’s Richest and Poorest Cities

Michael B. Sauter, Evan Comen, Sam Stebbins and Thomas C. Frohlich
In this Feb. 15, 2011 file photo shown is a view looking up Taylor Street from Market Street in San Francisco. With Twitter’s new headquarters set to open there soon, residents of a San Francisco neighborhood notorious for crime, drugs and homelessness remain among the least likely to have any way to send a tweet, much less access to basic goods and services. At a recent weekend “hackathon,” engineers and entrepreneurs sought ways to use tech to help people in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market Street area find food, housing, healthcare and jobs. In the process, city leaders hope to ease tensions between needy locals and newly arriving startups flush with cash. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

U.S. median household income increased in 2014 to $53,657, an increase of roughly $600 from the previous year. Still, U.S. incomes have yet to recover to pre-recession levels. Adjusting for inflation, U.S. 2014 median income was still below its 2009 level.

Periods of recession and economic boom have an impact on the overall wealth of a country, as well as on metropolitan areas -- although to varying degrees. In most cases, the impact does not change the relative wealth of a metropolitan area, especially of the most affluent and extremely impoverished metropolitan areas. People living in Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas, where the typical household earns $32,093 a year, likely have a considerably different life from those living in San Jose, California, where the median household income is approximately three times that of Brownsville's. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the wealthiest and poorest cities in the U.S.

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Income and poverty levels, although not always perfectly correlated, are closely related. The federal poverty threshold -- $11,770 for a single individual -- is based on the income necessary to sustain a household, and depends on the age of the home owner, the family size, and the number of children. As a result, poverty tends to be more prevalent in places with exceptionally low incomes. Notably, the poverty rates in all 25 poorest metro areas exceeds the national poverty rate of 15.5%. More than 35% of residents in Brownsville-Harlingen, for example, live in poverty, the highest poverty rate nationwide.

An area's labor market can be a significant factor in determining incomes. A lower unemployment rate is often a sign of a healthy, competitive job market. Not only are more people employed, but also workers are more likely to be better paid. In addition, the more occupants in a household who are able to bring in income, the higher that region’s wealth will be. Of the 25 wealthiest metropolitan areas, the unemployment rates in 19 are equal to or lower than the national rate. All but one of the 25 poorest areas have higher than average jobless rates.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St. Charles Varner, associate director at Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, explained that while employment is an important component in determining the affluence of a given area, how people are employed is likely just as important. In many of the country's wealthiest metro areas, Varner observed, a high share of employees work technology and finance positions. Indeed, in the majority of the high-wealth metro areas -- such as the Washington D.C. region, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Jose -- a very high share of workers are employed in professional and scientific positions, which tend to pay better than many other industries.

Another trend clearly differentiating the wealthiest and the poorest areas in the country, explained Varner, the general education levels of area residents. Nationally, 30.1% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree. Only one of the poorest metro areas has a higher share of adults with similar education. And cities such as Pine Bluff, Arkansas and Lake Havasu, Arizona, have less than half the national proportion. The levels of education, like the type of jobs available, is indicative of the region’s economy. “[The wealthiest] areas have a high concentration of educated people, because of the presence of universities and -- more importantly -- the jobs that are there,” Varner said.

In addition to wealthier areas mostly having better educated residents, employment, poverty, and income, property values in these areas are considerably higher. This is perhaps indicative of the fact that, in general, these are the most desirable places to live. These kinds of economies, Varner explained, are structured to support and perpetuate wealth. “It is very beneficial to be in these areas if you are affluent. The [affluent] need to be near these production centers, to generate that kind of income or wealth.”

To determine America's richest and poorest cities. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey (ACS). We identified the 25 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with the lowest median household incomes, and the 25 highest for that year. Median income data for all previous years is adjusted for inflation in 2014 dollars. We also reviewed figures on poverty, home values, and income distribution, and educational attainment from the Census Bureau’s ACS, as well as annual average unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of August, 2015. Figures on gross domestic product for metro areas, called gross metropolitan product (GMP), are for 2014 and are from IHS Global Insight.

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These are America's richest and poorest cities.

America’s Richest Cities

10. Trenton, NJ
> Median household income:
$74,961
> Median home value: $272,000
> Unemployment rate: 5.0%
> Poverty rate: 11.9%

Nationwide, 5.3% of households earn $200,000 or more each year. In Trenton, 12.3% of households earn as much, more than double the national rate. A typical household in the metro area earns $74,961 annually, more than $21,000 higher than the national median of $53,657. While regional wealth often occurs in areas with high growth, this is not always the case. For example, while the U.S. economy grew at a 2.2% pace in 2014, the Trenton economy contracted by a third of a percent.

9. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
> Median household income:
$75,449
> Median home value: $483,100
> Unemployment rate: 5.8%
> Poverty rate: 11.3%

Unlike most of the wealthiest metro areas in the United States, a smaller than average share of Oxnard adults have a high school diploma. While 86.9% of American adults have completed high school, only 83.6% of area adults have achieved as much academically. Despite lower educational attainment, the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura metro area’s median income is among the highest in the United States. A typical household in the metro area earns $75,449 annually, nearly $22,000 more than the national median of $53,657.

8. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
> Median household income:
$75,667
> Median home value: $375,200
> Unemployment rate: 4.1%
> Poverty rate: 10.6%

A typical household in the Boston metro area earns $75,667 annually, significantly more than the national median of $53,657. Areas with higher educational attainment tend to have higher incomes as better-paying jobs often require at least a college degree. In Boston, 45.2% of area adults have at least a bachelor's degree, well above the comparable national rate of 30.1%. In even the poorest metropolitan areas, some small share of households have very high incomes. In many of the wealthiest metropolitan areas, the proportion of wealthy households is exceptionally high. About 11.2% of Boston area households earn $200,000 or more annually, more than double the 5.3% of American households earning as much.

7. Anchorage, AK
> Median household income:
$75,682
> Median home value: $272,700
> Unemployment rate: 5.0%
> Poverty rate: 9.9%

Most of the wealthiest metro areas in the United States have disproportionately high shares of adults with bachelor’s degrees. However, while 30.1% of American adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, only 29.7% of Anchorage adults have similar education. Still, the typical household in Anchorage earns over $22,000 more than the typical American household of $53,657. Despite high incomes among area residents, the local economy does not appear to be robust. While the U.S. economy grew at a 2.2% pace in 2014, the Anchorage economy contracted by 1.4%.

6. Midland, TX
> Median household income:
$77,574
> Median home value: $165,600
> Unemployment rate: 3.2%
> Poverty rate: 7.8%

A typical household in the Midland metro area earns $77,574 annually, nearly $24,000 more than the national median of $53,657. While very high incomes are often associated with high rates of poverty, that is not the case in Midland. Just 7.8% of the city's population lives below the poverty line -- set at $11,770 for a single individual -- much lower than the national poverty rate of 15.5%. And 7.8% of Midland households earn less than $10,000 per year, in line with the 7.3% of U.S. households earning so little. This may partially be the result of low unemployment. Just 3.2% of the Midland region’s workforce is unemployed, compared to a national rate of 5.1%.

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5. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
> Median household income:
$83,222
> Median home value: $657,300
> Unemployment rate: 4.2%
> Poverty rate: 10.9%

The San Francisco metro area’s median income is the fifth highest in the United States. A typical household in the metro area earns $83,222 annually, nearly $30,000 more than the national median of $53,657. Areas with higher educational attainment tend to have higher incomes as better-paying jobs often require at least a college degree. The San Francisco metro area is home to one of the better educated populations in the country, as 45.9% of area adults have at least a bachelor's degree, well above the comparable national rate of 30.1%. In many of the wealthiest metropolitan areas, the proportion of very wealthy households is high. In the Bay Area, 14.5% of households earn $200,000 or more each year, a higher share than in all but two other U.S. metro areas.

4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
> Median household income:
$85,925
> Median home value: $408,900
> Unemployment rate: 5.3%
> Poverty rate: 8.9%

Nearly 20% of Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area households earn at least $200,000 a year, the largest share of any U.S. metro area and nearly four times the 5.3% of households earning as much nationally. A typical household in the metro area earns $85,925 annually, over $32,000 more than the national median of $53,657. Higher incomes tend to accompany higher educational attainment. In the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area, 46.7% of adults have at least a bachelor's degree, well above the comparable national rate of 30.1%.

3. California-Lexington Park, MD
> Median household income:
$86,417
> Median home value: $291,300
> Unemployment rate: 5.2%
> Poverty rate: 7.5%

Certain industries tend to have higher-paid employees. Those working in professional, scientific, and management positions, for example, typically earn substantially more than workers in many other industries. In California-Lexington Park, one of the wealthiest U.S. metro areas, 15.1% of workers are employed in these types of occupations versus 11.1% of workers nationwide. The California-Lexington Park metro area’s median income of $86,417 is the third highest in the United States. As is often the case in extremely high-income metro areas, poverty is relatively low in California-Lexington Park. Just 7.5% of the city's population lives below the poverty line, less than half the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

2. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
> Median household income:
$91,193
> Median home value: $386,900
> Unemployment rate: 4.3%
> Poverty rate: 8.7%

Spanning three states, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area’s median income is the second highest in the United States. A typical household in the metro area earns $91,193 annually, nearly $38,000 more than the $53,657 national median income. Certain industries tend to have higher-paid employees. Those working in professional, scientific, and management positions, for example, typically earn substantially more than workers in many other industries. In the Washington area, 20.5% of workers are employed in these types of occupations versus the 11.1% share of workers nationwide. Higher incomes tend to accompany higher educational attainment. Nearly half of Washington area adults have at least a bachelor's degree, well above the comparable national rate of 30.1%.

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
> Median household income:
$96,481
> Median home value: $735,400
> Unemployment rate: 4.1%
> Poverty rate: 8.7%

The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area’s median household income of $96,481 is the highest in the United States. The typical area household earns over $42,000 more than the typical American household. As in many of the nation’s wealthiest areas, the poverty rate in San Jose is well below average. Just 8.7% of the city's population lives below the poverty line, much lower than the national poverty rate of 15.5%. In San Jose, 47.5% of adults have at least a bachelor's degree, well above the comparable national rate of 30.1%. Nationwide, 5.3% of households earn $200,000 or more each year. In San Jose, 18.2% of households earn as much, the second highest share of any metro area in the country.

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The Poorest Cities in America

10. Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ
> Median household income:
$37,674
> Median home value: $120,200
> Unemployment rate: 8.7%
> Poverty rate: 20.6%

The typical Lake Havasu City-Kingman household makes just $37,674 a year, nearly $16,000 less than the typical American household. Low incomes often occur in tandem with lower rates of educational attainment, and that is the case in Lake Havasu as well. Just 12.9% of the metro’s adults have at least a bachelor's degree, less than half of the 30.1% of adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree nationwide. Unhealthy job markets can also dampen an area's wealth. The Lake Havasu City metro area's unemployment rate of 8.7% is the 10th highest in the country and much higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.1%. Low incomes areas also often have high poverty rates. About 21% of Lake Havasu City-Kingman residents live in poverty, one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

9. Grants Pass, OR
> Median household income:
$36,870
> Median home value: $213,100
> Unemployment rate: 8.2%
> Poverty rate: 19.6%

A typical household in Grants Pass makes just $36,870 a year, or nearly $17,000 less than the typical American household. Low-income areas often have less educated workforces. Just 17.1% of Grants Pass adults have at least a bachelor's degree, significantly lower than the 30.1% of adults who do nationwide. An area's wealth is often tied to the health of its job market. Grants Pass's unemployment rate of 8.2% is the 16th highest in the country and much higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.1%. About 20% of Grants Pass residents live below the poverty line, compared to the 15.5% of citizens who do nationwide.

8. Sumter, SC
> Median household income:
$36,633
> Median home value: $111,100
> Unemployment rate: 7.4%
> Poverty rate: 24.1%

Sumter is a poor metro area in one of the poorest states. The typical Sumter household makes just $36,633 a year, or about $17,000 less than the typical American household. And while just 0.6% of Sumter households earn $200,000 or more in a year, 11.7% of households earn less than $10,000 annually. Low incomes in the area may be the result of a poorly educated workforce. Just 16.7% of Sumter adults have at least a high school diploma, significantly lower than the 30.1% of adults who do nationwide. A healthy economy is usually more likely to create wealth. Sumter’s unemployment rate of 7.4 is 2.3 percentage points higher than the national rate.

7. Valdosta, GA
> Median household income:
$36,340
> Median home value: $110,900
> Unemployment rate: 6.2%
> Poverty rate: 26.0%

A typical household in Valdosta makes just $36,340 a year, or $17,317 less than the typical American household. Low incomes in the area may be the result of a poorly educated workforce. Just 81.5% of Valdosta adults have at least a high school diploma, significantly lower than the 86.9% of adults who do nationwide. Much of the income generated in Valdosta goes to a small cluster of its wealthiest residents. Almost more than one quarter of the area’s income income is made by the area's top 5% of earners, one the highest concentrations of wealth in the country. At the same time, about 22% of Valdosta residents receive food stamps, the 14th highest share of any metro area in the country. Also, about 26% of Valdosta residents live in poverty -- more than 10 percentage points higher than the national poverty rate.

6. Sebring, FL
> Median household income:
$36,120
> Median home value: $80,800
> Unemployment rate: 7.8%
> Poverty rate: 18.1%

The median household income in Sebring is just $36,120 a year, about $17,500 less than the typical American household income. Low incomes in the area may be the result of a poorly educated workforce. Only 81.4% percent of Sebring adults have at least a high school diploma, lower than the 86.9% of adults who do nationwide. Unhealthy job markets can also dampen an area's wealth. Sebring's unemployment rate of 7.8% is one of the highest in the country and 2.7 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate. High unemployment in the region exacerbates poverty conditions. About 18% of Sebring residents live below the poverty line, more than the 15.5% of citizens who do nationwide.

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5. Goldsboro, NC
> Median household income:
$35,966
> Median home value: $105,700
> Unemployment rate: 6.7%
> Poverty rate: 25.5%

Goldsboro is a poor town in one of the poorest states in the country. The typical Goldsboro household makes just $35,966 a year, nearly $18,000 less than the typical American household. Almost one in 10 Goldsboro households makes less than $10,000 a year -- well below the $11,770 federal poverty threshold for one adult, and one of the highest shares nationwide. The share of residents in high-paying jobs contributes to the wealth of a metro area. Those who work in professional, scientific, and management positions tend to have higher incomes than those who work in lower-paying fields. Only 4.9% of Goldsboro's workforce is employed in such a high-paying sector compared to 11.1% of the workforce nationally. Agriculture is a key component of Goldsboro’s economy. The city is home to Goldsboro Milling Company, the 10th largest producer of swine in the country. Despite this, about 26% of Goldsboro residents live in poverty, significantly more than the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

4. Homosassa Springs, FL
> Median household income:
$35,671
> Median home value: $116,300
> Unemployment rate: 7.6%
> Poverty rate: 21.2%

Only three U.S. metro areas have a lower median household income than Homosassa Springs. The typical household in the area makes $35,671 a year, about $18,000 less than the typical American household. An area's wealth is often tied to the health of its job market, and at 7.6%, the area’s unemployment rate is 2.7 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate. High unemployment and low incomes exacerbate poverty in metropolitan areas. More than 20% of the metro area’s residents live in poverty, significantly higher than the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

3. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
> Median household income:
$34,801
> Median home value: $79,400
> Unemployment rate: 7.9%
> Poverty rate: 34.0%

In the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metro area, located on the U.S.-Mexico border, the typical household makes just $34,801 a year, almost $19,000 less than the typical American household. While fewer than 1.3% of the area’s households earn $200,000 or more in a year, 14.3% of households earn less than $10,000 a year. According to a report by Brookings, --a think tank that conducts research on metropolitan policy -- an influx of low-income immigrants from Mexico have moved to the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission suburbs in recent years, increasing the area’s poverty rate. About 34% of area residents live in poverty, the second highest poverty rate in the country. Low incomes may also be the result of a poorly educated workforce. Just 62.2% of McAllen adults have at least a high school diploma, 24.7 percentage points lower than the national figure. About 31% of McAllen-Edinburg-Mission residents rely on food stamps, the second highest share of any metro area in the country.

2. Pine Bluff, AR
> Median household income:
$33,838
> Median home value: $80,200
> Unemployment rate: 7.5%
> Poverty rate: 26.2%

Pine Bluff is the poorest metro area in one of the poorest states in the country. The typical Pine Bluff household makes just $33,838 a year, almost $20,000 less than the typical American household. The federal poverty threshold for one adult is $11,770 a year, and 12.0% of Pine Bluff households earn less than $10,000 a year --one of the highest such shares in the country. One-third of area homes are valued at less than $50,000, the largest such share in the country. Low-income areas often have a less educated workforce. Just 14.8% of Pine Bluff adults have at least a bachelor's degree, significantly lower than the 30.1% of adults who do nationwide. About 26% of Pine Bluff residents live in poverty, significantly higher than the national poverty rate of 15.5%.

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1. Brownsville-Harlingen, TX
> Median household income:
$32,093
> Median home value: $76,200
> Unemployment rate: 6.8%
> Poverty rate: 35.2%

The typical Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas household earns just $32,093 a year, or $21,564 less than the typical American household. The city is by several measures the poorest in the country. More than 35% of area residents live in poverty, the highest poverty rate in the country. Low incomes in the area may be the result of a poorly educated workforce. Just 64.6% of Brownsville area adults have at least a high school diploma, 22.3 percentage points fewer than the national figure. About 29% of area households rely on food stamps, the third highest share of any metro area in the country.

The area is known locally for its colonias -- communities the government formed in the 1950s on worthless agricultural land. There are roughly 2,300 of these neighborhoods in Texas, mostly located along the Mexican border.

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