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Brownsville-Harlingen, TX Ranks Among the Poorest U.S. Cities

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For the first time in nearly a decade, poverty is on the rise in the United States. The number of Americans living below the poverty line climbed from 38.4 million in 2020 to 41.4 million in 2021, a 7.9% increase. The rapid rise came after seven consecutive years of declines in the number of people living in poverty and is the largest single-year increase since the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.

Currently, the federal poverty threshold stands at an annual income of $14,580 for an individual and $30,000 for a family of four, with slightly higher thresholds in Alaska and Hawaii. The consequences for those living in poverty are devastating and far reaching. And for the 12.2 million American children living below the poverty line, some negative effects can last a lifetime.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, the national poverty rate is 12.8%. In some major U.S. cities, however, the share of the population living below the poverty line is far higher.

The Brownsville-Harlingen metropolitan area in Texas, for example, is one of 23 U.S. metro areas where more than one in every five people live below the poverty line. The 24.7% poverty rate in Brownsville is the fifth highest of the 386 U.S. metro areas with available data.

Additionally, the typical metro area household earns $48,115 annually, about $21,600 less than the national median household income of $69,717.

All data on poverty rates and median annual household income are one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey.

RankMetro areaPoverty rate (%)Median household income ($)Unemployment rate, 2022 (%)1McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX29.3$44,8186.52Valdosta, GA27.6$42,2333.23Monroe, LA27.2$45,0013.74Farmington, NM26.7$47,8194.65Brownsville-Harlingen, TX24.7$48,1155.76Merced, CA23.5$53,9927.77College Station-Bryan, TX23.4$49,9273.28Beckley, WV22.7$38,7374.09Greenville, NC22.5$44,4504.110Laredo, TX22.4$51,8674.111Blacksburg-Christiansburg, VA22.3$54,7372.912 (tied)Brunswick, GA21.8$54,5613.012 (tied)Saginaw, MI21.8$50,6065.612 (tied)Madera, CA21.8$63,4546.115Shreveport-Bossier City, LA21.4$48,1643.716Jonesboro, AR21.0$47,9352.817Danville, IL20.9$49,0915.018 (tied)Macon-Bibb County, GA20.8$53,3973.518 (tied)Odessa, TX20.8$57,4733.920Bloomington, IN20.7$52,5882.821Sumter, SC20.3$43,2103.822 (tied)El Paso, TX20.1$51,0024.322 (tied)Lawton, OK20.1$49,4223.6

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