In a Christmas Day article, Samuel Stebbins, assistant managing editor of 247wallst.com and reporter Evan Comen, looked for the poorest town in every state. Guess what? In Idaho, the town they singled out was Bonners Ferry. Havre took the dubious nod in Montana.
“The new economic reality of COVID — reduced income, and even poverty for many Americans — is already all too familiar in many parts of the United States,” they wrote. “For decades, small towns and cities across the country have been devastated by deindustrialization and job losses. In these places, incomes are generally low, poverty rates are high, and many residents depend on government assistance, like SNAP (food stamps), to afford basic necessities.”
In nearly every state, even relatively wealthy states, there is at least one town where incomes are far lower than the median nationwide. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the median annual household income in over 2,600 cities, towns, villages, and Census designated places to identify the poorest town in every state.
“We only considered areas with populations between 1,000 and 25,000,” they wrote. “To ensure accuracy, we only considered places where the margin of error for population and median household income was less than ten percent. All data on income, education, poverty and demographics are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey.
“One of the strongest correlations with income in the United States is education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans with a bachelor’s degree are far less likely to be unemployed than Americans with lower education, and they earn 67% more than those with only a high school diploma. Nationwide, 31.5% of adults have a bachelor’s degree. In the vast majority of places on this list, less than 20% do.”
Idaho: Bonners Ferry
Median household income: $31,619 (State: $53,089)
Poverty rate: 22.4% (State: 13.8%)
Median home value: $155,800 (State: $192,300)
Bonners Ferry is a small city of about 2,500 people in northern Idaho. The poorest place in the state, Bonners Ferry has a median household income of just $31,619 — well below the median income across Idaho of $53,089.
A lack of high-paying jobs may be pushing people out of Bonners Ferry. Over the last five years, the number of people living there fell by 21.1%. Meanwhile, Idaho’s population expanded by 6.6% over the same period, driven in part by rapid growth in wealthier cities like Boise and Meridian.
Median household income: $46,419 (State: $52,559)
Poverty rate: 17.7% (State: 13.7%)
Median home value: $143,900 (State: $219,600)
Of all places in Montana that are home to between 1,000 and 25,000 people, Havre has the lowest median household income. Despite its distinction as the poorest small city in the state, Havre does not have particularly bad economic conditions relative to the state as a whole. The typical Havre household earns $46,419 a year, only about $6,000 less than the median household income across Montana.
While most of the places on this list are experiencing population decline, Havre is growing. Over the last five years, the number of people living in the area climbed by 2.2%. However, this growth still trails the state’s 4.3% population growth rate.