Top 10 American Cities That Went from Rich to Poor


5 min read
Poor Rich

Financial news and commentary website 24/7 Wall St. calculated per capita income for all U.S. metropolitan statistical areas in both 1959, the first year with consistent data, and in 2018, to determine the American cities that went from rich to poor during that time. Here are the top ten cities on that list.

10. Michigan City-La Porte, IN

Michigan City
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Matt Morse [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Once home to a major lumber port, Michigan City-La Porte, which is the metropolitan area that comprises LaPorte county in the northern part of the state, has a poverty rate of 16.4 percent — far more than the national poverty rate of 13.1 percent. Here’s some additional information about the area:

–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $14,797 (116 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $26,844 (281 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +15.7 percent (95,111 to 110,007)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 4.4 percent
–A number of other nearby metropolitan areas also made this list.

9. Rockford, IL

Rockford
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Alexbaumgarner [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
In 1959, Rockford had the 33rd highest income level in the nation. But, in the decades that followed, Rockford’s economy saw huge declines in jobs, decaying infrastructure, and rising unemployment and poverty. The city currently has a poverty rate of 22.2 percent.

Other info:
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $16,536 (33 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $29,503 (199 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +46.7 percent (230,091 to 337,658)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 5.7 percent

8. Toledo, OH

Toledo Ohio
Source: Wikimedia Commons By [https://www.flickr.com/Permission= [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
GOBankingRates looked at 82 major cities in the United States to determine how economic conditions have changed from 1970 to 2017. During that time, Toledo experienced a -$1,766 change in per capita income, a -$25,706 change in median household income, a -103,607 change in population, and a 17.3 percent change in the poverty rate, going from just 9.2 percent in 1970 to 26.5 percent by 2017. Most of the city’s economic downfall was due to the troubles of U.S. automakers and other domestic industries beginning in the 1970s.

Additional information:
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $16,290 (37 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $29,222 (204 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +7.9 percent (558,828 to 602,871)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 4.9 percent

7. Amarillo, TX

Amarillo
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Chris Hale (photographer) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Although the Amarillo, TX, metropolitan area has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, the region still has become much poorer than it was 50 years ago, when it ranked 57th overall in median household income. Today it ranks 228th.

Additional info:
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $15,653 (57 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $28,354 (228 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +66.5 percent (161,168 to 268,356)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 2.8 percent

6. Jackson, MI

Jackson Michigan
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Phillip L. Hofmeister [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]
An article published last July by USA Today showed that of the 38 Census tracts in the Jackson, Michigan, metro area, seven had poverty rates of 40 percent and above. That was up from just five in 2010. Meanwhile, the number of poor Jackson metro area residents living in extremely poor neighborhoods had nearly doubled from 4,740 in 2010 to 8,335 in 2016.

Here are some additional stats from both USA Today and 24/7 Wall St.:
–2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +12.5 ppts (20.8 percent to 33.3 percent)
–2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +3,595 people (4,740 to 8,335)
–2010-2016 avg. annual GDP growth: +1.4 percent (Michigan: +2.0 percent)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $15,471 (70 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $26,940 (278 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +20.3 percent (131,994 to 158,823)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 3.9 percent

5. Walla Walla, WA

Walla Walla
Source: Wikimedia Commons By Squarestate7 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
The metropolitan area of Walla Walla, Washington, had an inflation-adjusted income that ranked 65th out of 380 U.S. metropolitan areas back in 1959. Today, the metropolitan area’s per capita income ranks 282nd overall.

Here is some additional data compiled by 24/7 Wall St.:
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $15,530 (65 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $26,805 (282 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +40.3 percent (46,764 to 65,611)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 4.8 percent

4. Battle Creek, MI

Battle Creek
Source: Wikimedia Commons By battlecreekcvb [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Like other cities on this list, Battle Creek‘s decline in income level ranking is related to shuttered factories and other struggles of American industry. And, not only did Battle Creek see a decline in income level ranking, it also saw a decline in population, dropping from 138,858 in 1959 to 134,487 in 2018.

Additional data from 24/7 Wall St.:
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $15,504 (67 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $26,276 (300 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: -3.1 percent (138,858 to 134,487)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 4.2 percent

3. Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bakersfield, CA, saw a huge jump in population between 1959 and 2018. Unfortunately, relative growth in income levels did not follow. As a result, Bakersfield’s per capita income is now close to the bottom nationwide. According to data from 24/7 Wall St., “the average resident has an income of $22,778, compared to the national per capita income of $33,831, [and] the area’s 2018 unemployment and poverty rates of 8.0 percent and 20.6 percent, respectively, are also among the highest of any metro area.”

Here’s some more data from 24/7 Wall St.:
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $14,852 (110 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $22,778 (366 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +207.1 percent (291,984 to 896,764)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 8.0 percent

2. Mansfield, OH

Mansfield
Source: Wikimedia Commons

USA Today reported in 2018 that Mansfield had experienced the largest increase in concentrated poverty of any metro in Ohio. At the time, 10.8 percent of the city’s 19,000 poor residents lived in extreme poverty.

Here is some other data from USA Today:
–2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +10.8 ppts (0.0 percent to 10.8 percent)
–2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +2,027 people (0 to 2,027)
–2010-2016 avg. annual GDP growth: +0.7 percent (Ohio: +1.9 percent)
–Unemployment: 19.2 percent (poor neighborhoods) 7.9 percent (all other)

…And some data from 24/7 Wall St.:
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $15,583 (61 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $24,927 (338 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +2.8 percent (117,761 to 121,099)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 4.9 percent

1. Elkhart-Goshen, IN

Elkhart
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Elkhart, IN, is officially classified as the Elkhart-Goshen metropolitan area. Even though that county wasn’t considered an official metropolitan area 50 years ago, it would have ranked as one of the wealthiest in the country if it had been. It ranked 32nd out of the 380 metropolitan areas with available data, and by 1969, it ranked 24th overall. Unfortunately, Elkhart’s income remained relatively stagnant while the rest of the country improved. And, and as of 2018, it ranked 319th. On a positive note, things appear to be slowly but surely turning around for the area. According to the Indiana Business Review, “the Elkhart-Goshen MSA in 2018 demonstrated stunning growth in aggregate production and job creation.”

Other data:
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 1959: $16,545 (32 of 380)
–Inflation adjusted per capita income, 2018: $25,694 (319 of 380)
–Population change, 1959-2018: +92.5 percent (106,790 to 205,560)
–Unemployment rate, 2018: 2.6 percent

CONCLUSION

Your turn! Is your city on this list? Tell us about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading.