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Poorest Metro Areas in the U.S.

There are 56 metro areas in the United States with a population over 1 million. Which ones have the lowest median household income?
For the year 2021, according to the U.S. Census
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: October 18, 2022
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First submittedOctober 18, 2022
Times taken9,059
Average score50.0%
Rating4.28
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$
Metro Area
55,840
Memphis
56,837
New Orleans
59,696
Tulsa
60,667
Tucson
60,725
Birmingham
61,815
Oklahoma City
62,315
Cleveland
$
Metro Area
62,794
Buffalo
62,951
Tampa
63,656
Fresno
63,677
Las Vegas
63,814
Miami
64,029
Louisville
64,936
Orlando
$
Metro Area
66,516
Rochester
66,609
Pittsburgh
66,775
San Antonio
67,153
Detroit
68,394
Jacksonville
68,449
Milwaukee
+12
Level 87
Oct 19, 2022
Yet you can have a better house and more affordable lifestyle in many of these. For most Americans living in suburbia who never go anywhere special day to day all year round except to their job and house, they may as well live in Tulsa as Sacramento.
+2
Level 86
Oct 19, 2022
It is more complicated than that because you are assuming that jobs are constant from metro area to metro area. Even if you adjust for regional cost of living, some places have more reasonably well-paying jobs than others. (Of course, this is not relevant for the small percentage of workers who have truly remote jobs, but it is for everyone else.) In all likelihood, one of the factors that makes these areas "poorer" is limited opportunities for decent jobs.
+12
Level 76
Oct 19, 2022
I've lived in Tulsa. They have engineers and doctors and lawyers and construction and all kinds of things that major cities have. But what they DON'T have is crippling cost of living and exorbitant housing costs. I think the O.P. is right. These are metro areas of 1 million people, not isolated flyover towns of 15,000. I think it's completely fair to say that a family could be making $59,696 in Tulsa and have a much better quality of living than a household making $85,000 in San Francisco.
+2
Level 32
Jan 22, 2023
But this list doesn't correlate to cities with the highest unemployment rate. In fact the cities with the highest unemployment rate (San Fran, Honolulu, Austin, Denver) have very high median incomes. Job opportunity plays some role, but overall the cost of living is king when determining what an area's median income is. And as posters have said, the overall quality of living is better in many of these cities than others not on the list.
+2
Level 76
Jan 22, 2023
I live near Cleveland. We have three hospital systems ranked in the top 30 in the nation, two banks headquartered here, two companies that are Fortune 500 companies that employ thousands of people in the sciences, two national law firms, a bunch of architecture and engineering firms, and some really good universities. We also have the largest theatre district west of New York City, some world-class museums, the best park system in the country, a lake, a decent baseball team, a decent basketball team, a bad football team, and some good restaurants. We don't have crippling housing prices.
+1
Level 82
Oct 19, 2022
Welcome to gentrification
+4
Level 68
Oct 19, 2022
no San Juan?
+3
Level 77
Oct 19, 2022
Very rare for a Jetpunk quiz to include Puerto Rico, usually there is a caveat but I don't usually agree with the exclusion. I live in Australia which has both states and territories too, but we don't just ignore the territories and pretend they don't exist.
+14
Level 83
Oct 20, 2022
Excluding San Juan or Puerto Rico in a quiz isn't the same as excluding, say, Darwin or the NT in a quiz. Australia has internal and external territories and the US used to as well. Now all internal territories have been converted to states - the only non-state integral territory of the US is the District of Columbia, which is loosely analogous to the ACT in Australia (though the ACT has better democratic representation than DC). Now the US only has external territories. These include Puerto Rico and in Australian terms are equivalent to Norfolk Island or the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Or, to add another country into the mix, it's like excluding the Falkland Islands from a quiz on the UK.
+3
Level 77
Oct 25, 2022
We don't exclude Norfolk Island, unlike how Puerto Rico is excluded.
+2
Level 67
Oct 27, 2022
I've never seen it included on an Aussie quiz... unless it's asking for a list of all Australian territories

so yes, you do

+2
Level 83
Oct 29, 2022
In fairness, it's hard to think of many quizzes on Australia that would include Norfolk Island even if it were eligible. In a quiz about large US metro areas, San Juan might be conspicuous by its absence, given its population of over 2.3 million. By contrast, Burnt Pine on Norfolk Island has 180 people.

At any rate, I stand by excluding Puerto Rico from Jetpunk quizzes as a matter of standardisation. Of course if its legal status changed, then it should obviously be included. Frankly, given that Hawaii is a state, it's strange that Puerto Rico isn't, given the latter is both more populous and much closer to the US mainland. But that's another matter.

+1
Level 71
Oct 30, 2022
Norfolk Island is a buncha pine trees and Bounty castoffs.
+11
Level 76
Oct 19, 2022
I think this is a pretty misleading quiz. Namely the fact that it doesn't take average cost of living into account. $60k a year goes alot farther in Oklahoma than it does in California for instance. I don't think the quiz necessarily identifies the "poorest communities" but rather the ones with the lowest average income. I know it sounds like those are the same, but I don't believe they are.
+1
Level 73
Oct 19, 2022
I would advise removing the color caveat at the top, unless all of these are in one really big MSA.
+2
Level ∞
Oct 19, 2022
Thanks. Copy/paste got me.
+1
Level 83
Oct 20, 2022
Did not realise Memphis was so poor. What's cost of living like there?

Actually, it'd be interested to see how this goes with some sort of local cost of living or purchasing power adjustment. I imagine a lot of California would look a lot worse.

Nonetheless, kinda surprised by the Floridian inclusions. Did not realise major metro areas there were at the lower end of the income spectrum.

Of course poor is relative - my Googling suggests both Paris and London would make this list. On the other hand, I don't think any million plus metro area in Australia would (though all would suffer hard from cost of living adjustments).

+1
Level 81
Oct 26, 2022
Florida has no state income tax and a pretty low cost of living. Combine that with a disproportionate number of low-paying tourism jobs (see also New Orleans and Las Vegas) and it's unsurprising.
+9
Level 91
Oct 20, 2022
Maybe change "poorest" to "lowest income" as most of these cities on the list offer great living standards. Life is terrific in Tucson, Miami, Tampa etc.
+2
Level 77
Oct 29, 2022
Agree with most...poor is an answer to the equation of income vs. expenses. I
+1
Level 71
Oct 30, 2022
So, Philadelphia is on the richest list while Pittsburgh in on the poorest? If asked, I would have gotten them reversed.
+1
Level 25
Jan 25, 2023
not surprising at all to someone that has lived in both cities, philly metro is thought of as more "hood" by the general public but there are ton of rich people in the metro considering it is much more of a major city than pittsburgh and includes a lot of wealthy people in jersey as well while pittsburgh would include people from west VA and eastern ohio. Granted, there's nice suburbs of pittsburgh as well but for the most part it includes a lot of poorer rust belt towns in it's greater area. Also, a dollar goes further in pittsburgh than in philly
+4
Level 79
Dec 8, 2022
I agree with the other comments. This census data doesn't measure how "poor" these areas are.

Toy Example: Suppose you have 10 people in NYC and 10 people in Memphis all making 60K. In a vacuum, these groups are equally poor. As others have noted, 60K goes much further in Memphis, so the NYC group is, practically speaking, poorer. However, the big flaw is that because they are poorer, the NYC people are much more likely to need roommates and congregate into "high-earning" households. Out of our groups of 10, most of the ones in Memphis can probably afford to live alone and so those 10 divide into 7 or 8 households (60K median) while the NYC group probably splits into 3 or maybe 4 households (120K+ median). From the data point used in the quiz, the NYC group is then significantly wealthier despite being, at best, on the same level as the Memphis group.

+4
Level 79
Dec 8, 2022
Also, I am not an expert on this, but the Census definition of household seems to specifically exclude homeless people and could easily exclude those in unstable housing situations. If we're measuring "poorness" of an area, it seems like we shouldn't exclude the actual poor people.
+2
Level 45
Dec 26, 2022
Wow, never would have guessed Las Vegas. I would have thought it was a super expensive city to live in.
+1
Level 74
Jan 26, 2023
That was my initial thought too. It does make sense, though- the hospitality industry there is a much larger employer than in most other places, and is known for paying very low wages. It probably does cost quite a lot to comfortably move to and live in Vegas, but the metric is mostly measuring the income of people already there.
+8
Level 68
Jan 22, 2023
In order to adjust for differences in costs of living, I divided each metro area's median household income by its AdvisorSmith City Cost of Living Index (and re-normalized by multiplying by 100).

Here are the poorest metro areas by cost-of-living-adjusted median household income (1m+ population metros only):

1. Honolulu ($57,408)

2. Miami ($57,960)

3. Los Angeles ($58,679)

4. Fresno ($60,110)

5. New Orleans ($61,512)

6. Tampa ($62,082)

7. Tucson ($62,095)

8. Las Vegas ($63,234)

9. Memphis ($63,311)

10. Orlando ($64,039)

11. Buffalo ($64,536)

12. San Francisco ($64,952)

13. New York City ($65,945)

14. Providence ($66,178)

15. Riverside ($66,338)

16. San Diego ($66,816)

17. Birmingham ($66,951)

18. Tulsa ($68,854)

19. Rochester, NY ($68,857)

20. Jacksonville ($69,085)

+6
Level 68
Jan 22, 2023
And the richest:

1. Washington, DC ($91,886)

2. Raleigh ($85,560)

3. Sacramento ($84,384)

4. Minneapolis ($82,954)

5. Seattle ($81,638)

6. Austin ($81,173)

7. Denver ($80,924)

8. Kansas City ($80,677)

9. Baltimore ($80,656)

10. San Jose ($80,629)

11. Hartford ($78,490)

12. St. Louis ($78,336)

13. Chicago ($78,088)

14. Indianapolis ($77,854)

15. Philadelphia ($77,376)

16. Atlanta ($77,357)

17. Dallas ($77,132)

18. Grand Rapids, MI ($76,856)

19. Salt Lake City ($76,777)

20. Cincinnati ($76,643)

+2
Level 68
Jan 22, 2023
Full data here
+5
Level 32
Jan 22, 2023
Thank you. This metric is much more representative of "poor" cities than using just income (although that can be useful).