A Closer Look at Poverty Across the United States

This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released poverty estimates for every county across the country.
Author:
Publish date:

It's not exactly news that the wealth gap between the richest and poorest Americans is really more of, well, a gorge. California, for example, has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the nation, with both the largest population of the super rich and record levels of poverty (when the cost of living is considered). With an eye toward more national trends, Pacific Standard looked at data released this week by the Census Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program.

Estimating income and poverty levels for all 3,141 counties across the United States, the Census Bureau found that median household income between the richest (Falls Church, Virginia) and poorest (Buffalo County, South Dakota) counties varied by more than $100,000. Additionally, between 2007 and 2014, 26 percent of counties saw poverty levels climb, while poverty levels decreased in only one percent of all counties.

Below, some additional highlights:

(Map: Census Bureau)

(Map: Census Bureau)

A map from the Census Bureau shows that the poorest counties in the U.S. appear to be concentrated in the country's southern states.

ps_break1.jpg
(Map: Census Bureau)

(Map: Census Bureau)

Another map from the Bureau breaks down the poverty rates of school-age children across counties. The poverty rates for children range from a low of 2.9 in Falls Church, Virginia, to a peak of 58.1 in Perry County, Alabama.

ps_break1.jpg
(Photo: J. Stephen Conn/Flickr)

(Photo: J. Stephen Conn/Flickr)

Downtown Gann Valley is nestled in Buffalo County, South Dakota—one of the smallest counties in the U.S., with 2,077 people. Buffalo County also has the lowest median household income in the country; households bring in an average of just $21,658 a year.

ps_break1.jpg
(Photo: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

(Photo: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Colorado has some of the richest counties in the U.S. At 3.7 percent, Douglas County, Colorado, boasts the nation's third lowest poverty rate. Pictured above, Dean Wilson getting his first PGA tour win at a 2006 tournament at Castle Rock's Castle Pines Golf Club in Douglas County.

ps_break1.jpg
(Photo: Jasperdo/Flickr)

(Photo: Jasperdo/Flickr)

But there are still some poor counties in Colorado. Crowley County, for example, has an overall poverty rate of more than 40 percent.

ps_break1.jpg
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation encompasses all of Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota, including the town of Allen (pictured above), and has the highest poverty rate in the nation. More than half of the county's 14,218 residents live in poverty.

ps_break1.jpg
(Photo: Frank Kovalchek/Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo: Frank Kovalchek/Wikimedia Commons)

Skagway, Alaska, has the second lowest poverty rate in the nation at 3.6 percent. The town of just over 1,000 residents swells during the tourist seasons, when hundreds of thousands of people make their way through the city for icy adventures, like the state sport of dogsledding.

Related