The Poorest ZIP Codes in America

Poverty isn’t always what it seems: Sometimes, it’s hiding in your city or close to your neighborhood. To take a closer look at our communities, we’ve gathered data on the poorest ZIP codes in the U.S. Scan census data on median household income by ZIP code, map the poorest community near you, or see which is the least affluent area in your state. The results may surprise you!

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What Is the Poorest ZIP Code in the United States?

The poorest ZIP code in America, for both mean and median household income, is 16501 in Erie, PA, according to the 2017 U.S. Census data. While the population is 1,418 households, the median income is $10,873 and the mean income is $14,780. For reference, the federal poverty level (FPL) for a family of four is $25,100, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The median income in Erie is less than half of that. For individuals, the FPL is $12,140: The median income for ZIP code 16501 is still lower. Luckily, the ZIP code is home to a local food bank as well as a local university.

The List of the Poorest ZIP Codes in the United States

The top 10 poorest ZIP codes in the USA are all over the map, often hiding in corners of major cities like LA and Cleveland. These are the lowest-income ZIP codes ranked in terms of median income, which is often considered to be a better measure than the mean. Note that this is out of the areas that have at least 1,000 households:

Rank ZIP Code City/Town Median Income Mean Income
16501 Erie, PA $10,873 $14,780
85147 Sacaton, AZ $11,813 $26,083
06702 Waterbury, CT $12,036 $16,973
90021 Los Angeles, CA $12,864 $47,393
79901 El Paso, TX $13,087 $22,768
37402 Chattanooga, TN $13,204 $26,954
43604 Toledo, OH $13,484 $28,031
45225 Cincinnati, OH $13,491 $21,178
35470 Livingston, AL $13,506 $29,878
44115 Cleveland, OH $13,625 $36,099

What do the least affluent ZIP codes in the U.S. have in common? When one glances at the list of the poorest neighborhoods in America, it’s hard to find trends. There’s no clear delineation between south/north, west/east, rural/urban, or political affiliation, but many areas on this list are in the famous “Rust Belt,” where a mass exodus of manufacturing companies and jobs occurred. An example of this would be Waterbury, CT, which, on top of everything else, also struggles with filling the gaps in retirement benefits for those previously industrial workers.

While looking for trends, it may be more interesting to look at the poorest ZIP code in each state. For instance, Alaska’s poorest ZIP code, 99556 in Anchor Point, still has a median income of $50,913, far above the poverty wage. This is likely because the local government pays out cash from the Alaska Permanent Fund (which is often funded by oil revenues). It’s interesting to note that the poorest ZIP code in Alaska is home to a median income that’s still 4.68 times that of America’s poorest ZIP code, in Erie.

Wyoming’s, Vermont’s, Idaho’s, Iowa’s, and Oregon’s median household incomes all are well above the poverty line. This may be because they’re some of the best states out there for retirees, due to tax breaks, good nursing homes, and benefits for the elderly.
There are numerous areas of poverty in the United States, and some are far closer to home than we realize. Are you living near one of the poorest ZIP codes? In U.S. cities and towns are tucked away some brave people living in bad situations. Let’s all take better care of our communities this year!

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