The demographics of the United States are always changing. And as demographics change, so do patterns of wealth. Regions that were once home to the richest cities in the U.S. — such as the Midwest and New England during the time of John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Joseph P. Kennedy — now have fallen behind new centers of wealth on the West Coast and booming southern states like Texas. With one of the most economically tumultuous years coming to a close, it’s a chance to take stock and look at the financial landscape of American households as 2021 begins.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey five-year estimates, we analyzed nearly 30,000 U.S. cities, towns, villages, boroughs and Census-Designated Places (CDPs) in terms of their median household income and mean household income. Combining these, we generated lists of the richest city and poorest city in each state were then identified.
Read on to find out the richest cities in the U.S. and poorest cities.
Richest City in Every State
The U.S. Census Bureau tracks median household income up to $250,000. Anything above that is denoted as “$250,000+.” On the other hand, it tracks median incomes down to $2,500, with those below bellowing denoted “-$2,500.” Mean household incomes are not capped. In order to focus on “cities,” there is a 1,000-household minimum to be included in the study. For a table of the richest and poorest cities in every state with no size restriction, go to the end of the article.
Below you’ll find a table including the richest cities in every U.S. state as of 2021. All these cities have at least 1,000 households.
There are seven cities in which the median household income is in excess of $250,000. Not surprisingly, many of the richest cities are wealthy suburbs of major cities, such as Winnetka, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago and home to the iconic house in “Home Alone.” Some rich cities are the suburbs of more than one city, such as Atherton, California, which stands between two insanely-expensive cities, San Francisco and San Jose. Other rich cities are different, such as North Dakota’s Beulah, a city remote from any major urban center and whose economy is heavily dependent on being home to the largest lignite mine in the U.S.
Poorest City in Every State
Looking at the poorest cities in the U.S., there are certainly some geographic patterns that emerge. There are six cities in where the median household income is less than $20,000: (1) Livingston, Alabama; (2) Hawaiian Ocean View, Hawaii; (3) Homer, Louisiana; (4) Highland Park, Michigan; (5) Albany, Kentucky; and (6) Allendale, South Carolina. Four of those six states are in the U.S. South. The Midwest is also home to some of the lowest incomes, such as Michigan’s Highland Park, Missouri’s Cuba and Ohio’s East Cleveland. Below you’ll find the table of the poorest city in every state.
A common theme among these poor cities is de-industrialization. Several of these cities, such as Johnstown, Pennsylvania, were once bustling centers of industry, namely iron, coal and steel, those materials so central to America’s economy from the Industrial Revolution through much of the post-World War II period. Similar cases include Central Falls, Rhode Island, whose population peaked at 25,808 in 1930; East Cleveland, whose population peaked at 40,047 in 1950; and Highland Park, Michigan, whose population peaked at 52,959 in 1930. Many other cities are rural towns that have lost people over the decades as agriculture as declined as a component of the country’s economy.
Richest and Poorest Cities in Every State – All Sizes
There is definitely some overlap between the first list, where cities had to have at least 1,000 households, and this list in which there are no size limitations. Allowing cities with less than 1,000 households to be included generated a list of cities that are even more extreme in their incomes, though many of these places have less than a hundred households or just a few hundred. Below you’ll find the table: