Richest and Poorest Places in the US

I don’t have any real analysis here, but I will tell you that the data comes from the 2004 American Community Survey

10 Poorest Places in 2004 (% in poverty)
1. Detroit city, MI (33.6)
2. El Paso city, TX ( 28.8)
3. Miami city, FL ( 28.3)
4. Newark city, NJ (28.1)
5. Atlanta city, GA (27.8)
6. Long Beach city, CA (26.4)
7. Milwaukee city, WI ( 26.0)
8. Buffalo city, NY (25.9)
9. Philadelphia city, PA ( 24.9)
10. Memphis city, TN ( 24.6)

The 15 Counties in the US with the Highest Median Family Income (the ones with * are in suburban NYC)
1. Fairfax County, VA ( 90,194)
2. Montgomery County, MD (90,187)
3. Morris County, NJ (90,168)*
4. Howard County, MD (90,157)
5. Monmouth County, NJ (90,148)*
6. Somerset County, NJ (90,133)*
7. Westchester County, NY (89,249)*
8. Chester County, PA (88,164)
9. San Mateo County, CA (87,762)
10. Nassau County, NY (87,558)*
11. Fairfield County, CT (87,434)*
12. Rockland County, NY (86,624)*
13. Santa Clara County, CA (85,581)
14. Norfolk County, MA (85,091)
15. Bergen County, NJ (84,604)*

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18 Responses to Richest and Poorest Places in the US

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  3. 3
    Rachel S. says:

    Yes, LOL!! I’ll change it.

  4. 4
    Polymath says:

    very interesting. i’m sure that most of the top 15 are on the east coast because the general cost of living there is higher. i wonder if there’s a way to calculate the top 15 adjusted for regional cost of living. for example, making $90,000 near NYC doesn’t translate into nearly the same standard of living as making $90,000 near some random central city like Little Rock, AK or something. so a county with a lower median income could actually be “richer” in a very real sense.

    anyone know of stats like that?

  5. 5
    lilah says:

    Lived the latter half of my youth in Westchester. Dobbs Ferry, in fact. $90k a year could not travel a shorter distance elsewhere. I live in MA now, and it is a RADICALLY lower cost of living, even though I’m in a relatively large city.

  6. 6
    Karen says:

    I’m also interested in some way of controlling for the cost of living for these stats… I live just outside Farifax County, VA, and the price of real estate (renting or buying) is astronomical, second only to a few places such as NYC or San Francisco… and that doesn’t even account for other aspects of cost of living.

    I made what most would consider a nice entry-level salary (before heading back to grad school), and could only just make ends meet, even with three roommates, so I’m not totally convinced that these stats are meaningful.

  7. 7
    Rachel S. says:

    Yeah, that’s a good point. I haven’t seen similar lists adjusted for cost of living. I should also note that Newark, NJ is on that list and is around many of those ultra-wealthy counties, so you can imagine how much misery people there are living in.

    I live in Westchester right now, and the main problem in terms of cost of living is housing–I probably will never be able to afford a house here. I currently pay over $2000 dollars a month in rent.

    If you’re curious about how to compare places, here is a good cost of living calculator.

    But, this is my favorite cost of living calculator. it doesn’t give an exact number, but I like how it break down the COL in different areas, such as food, housing, utilities, transportation, etc.

  8. 8
    Jake Squid says:

    …I probably will never be able to afford a house here.

    That’s one of the main reasons that I moved 3,500 from there.

    The other main reasons being the claustrophobia inducing, narrow, v-shaped glacial vallies that cut off the view of 96% of the sky and the soul crushing horror of having to deal with the wealthier people living there and their cheerfully expressed classist (and often racist) worldviews. I’ll be back to visit in 3 weeks and already dreading the feel of the place.

  9. 9
    Jake Squid says:

    … 3,500 miles

    See? See what even the thought of Westchester does to me?

  10. 10
    Rachel S. says:

    Jake, LOL!! I see. Truthfully, the whole NYC metro area does that to me. I have no problem with hill and valleys, but I feel like the middle class is going to totally disappear from here. It is going to be the rich people and the poor people who work for them. I’ll have to put up another post about how NY and MA are losing their populations of young people (and people in general). The demographic effects of the high cost of living are hurting the Northeast and California.

  11. 11
    silverside says:

    If you go to the National Low Income Housing Coalition website,, specifically the “Out of Reach” link, you can see how affordable housing is for your area, not just in terms of the current Fair Market Rent (the cost of a decent, but not luxurious, 2-BR apartment), but what that FMR represents as a percentage of the median renter household income. Yes, Westchester does come out very expensive. But Buffalo is almost as bad. Why? Even though the rents look like a bargain by NYC standards, median household incomes are quite low.
    I live in Chautauqua County, NY, which is in the extreme southwest corner of New York State. This is one of the cheapest housing markets in the country. The downside: good luck finding a job that pays any better than Walmart.
    Speaking of rural areas, you listed low income CITIES vs. poor counties. You should take a look at poor counties, too. There are an awful lot of very low income rural areas, even (especially) in New York State. As Eliot Spitzer reminded us a few months ago, some of upstate “looks like” Appalachia. Actually, parts of upstate NYS actually ARE part of Appalachia. And by some economic measures, upstate areas have actually declined relative to West Virginia and the like.

  12. 12
    Carnadosa says:

    Shout out from Buffalo! Well, the burbs of.

    Most people here will tell you it’s because of the approximately 53% more we get taxed then the national average. I think that’s what it was when there was last a newpaper article on it.

    From my research I conclude a part of it’s the highway bisecting the city (which have tolls), a part of it’s the way it’s no longer walkable which hurts everybody who can’t really afford a car but needs one to get a job (we have bad mass transit but not the density to afford anything better) and yes, I think part of it’s the taxes.

    Our insistence on Big Projects to pull us out mostly just digs the hole a little deeper.

  13. 13
    Rachel S. says:

    The poor counties list–if I am remembering this correctly, included almost all counties in the south, in particular Texas. I expected more in KY, WV, or AL.

  14. 14
    Radfem says:

    I think Texas has the most poorest counties, but actually South Dakota and Kentucky were up there too. South Dakota has many of them in the top 10 including the top 2 poorest counties which are Buffalo and Shannon counties. The majority of both counties are comprised of several American Indian reservations including Pine Ridge.

  15. 15
    Lee says:

    Amp, could you post the other ends of both those lists? That might help our discussion a little bit more. I was kinda expecting to see places in Mississippi on the poorest places list, just because Mississippi is at the bottom of so many other lists.

  16. 16
    Rachel S. says:

    Lee, I’ll get them and post them.

  17. 17
    Lee says:

    Rachel, sorry – by the time I got down to the end of the thread, I had forgotten who was the author of the post, and I was too lazy to go back up to the top to check. Thanks for more data, though.

  18. 18
    Rachel S. says:

    Yeah, your point about MS was right…that data is only for counties with over 250,000 people.