Hunger, poverty and homelessness affect every nation — even the richest and most powerful.
According to Feeding America, food insecurity plagues every U.S. county, with 40 million individuals lacking access to adequate food. 12.3 percent of the U.S. population lives in poverty. And in the absence of more affordable housing or accommodations provided by relatives or friends, many must take to the streets or shelters. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, shows that nearly 554,000 people — many of them children — had been homeless at one point in January 2017.
On the heels of our report on the most charitable states, WalletHub compared the more than 180 U.S. cities based on 27 key indicators of economic disadvantage, such as child poverty, food insecurity and uninsured rates. Read on for our findings, additional insight from our panel of experts and a full description of our methodology.
Neediest Cities in America
|Overall Rank*||City||Total Score||‘Economic Well-Being’ Rank||‘Health & Safety’ Rank|
|5||Los Angeles, CA||53.66||9||12|
|7||Little Rock, AR||53.35||35||2|
|9||St. Louis, MO||52.90||33||3|
|10||New Orleans, LA||52.74||24||6|
|24||San Bernardino, CA||49.36||31||30|
|26||Baton Rouge, LA||48.88||26||52|
|36||San Francisco, CA||47.20||70||5|
|37||Las Cruces, NM||47.14||37||58|
|39||New York, NY||46.93||16||121|
|47||New Haven, CT||45.84||17||138|
|48||Long Beach, CA||45.52||45||73|
|49||Oklahoma City, OK||45.50||77||16|
|55||St. Petersburg, FL||45.04||73||33|
|57||Fort Lauderdale, FL||44.80||48||85|
|58||Newport News, VA||44.71||57||69|
|61||Kansas City, MO||44.43||79||36|
|67||Fort Smith, AR||43.92||83||47|
|69||San Antonio, TX||43.66||88||41|
|70||Las Vegas, NV||43.62||52||90|
|72||Corpus Christi, TX||43.36||109||31|
|74||Santa Ana, CA||42.72||94||60|
|80||El Paso, TX||42.46||71||93|
|84||Grand Rapids, MI||42.25||92||72|
|86||North Las Vegas, NV||42.12||51||128|
|90||Salt Lake City, UT||41.59||116||38|
|96||St. Paul, MN||41.03||69||127|
|97||West Valley City, UT||40.94||128||56|
|101||Jersey City, NJ||40.47||107||86|
|112||Fort Worth, TX||39.77||127||75|
|116||Rapid City, SD||39.14||136||98|
|117||Grand Prairie, TX||39.12||144||81|
|124||Colorado Springs, CO||38.61||129||96|
|129||Fort Wayne, IN||38.38||117||126|
|130||Santa Rosa, CA||38.37||87||152|
|131||Port St. Lucie, FL||38.31||105||135|
|135||Garden Grove, CA||37.57||148||106|
|136||Des Moines, IA||37.51||121||130|
|140||Santa Clarita, CA||37.15||75||167|
|142||Moreno Valley, CA||36.69||113||146|
|149||San Diego, CA||34.84||125||158|
|150||Chula Vista, CA||34.17||111||176|
|154||Pembroke Pines, FL||33.03||160||143|
|155||San Jose, CA||32.98||145||173|
|157||Cape Coral, FL||32.82||151||166|
|163||Sioux Falls, SD||31.90||158||160|
|166||Virginia Beach, VA||31.11||164||156|
|169||Cedar Rapids, IA||30.19||177||148|
|171||Rancho Cucamonga, CA||29.17||168||168|
|175||Huntington Beach, CA||28.52||171||169|
|176||South Burlington, VT||27.95||178||165|
|180||Overland Park, KS||26.77||182||149|
|181||Pearl City, HI||26.36||179||175|
*No. 1 = Neediest
Ask the Experts
We asked a panel of experts to share their insight and advice regarding the changes and challenges experienced by needy groups and those who desire to help. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- How are the neediest cities being helped or hurt by the Trump administration agenda?
- How has the social makeup of people in need — in terms of age, race, gender, etc. — changed in recent decades?
- What are the main challenges facing low-income families today?
- Which policy interventions have proven successful in helping families achieve economic independence? Which ones have failed?
- How can charities and nonprofits most effectively serve the poor?
- How do the economic-mobility prospects of low-income Americans compare with their counterparts in other rich democracies?
In order to determine the cities with the neediest populations, WalletHub compared 182 cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across two key dimensions, “Economic Well-Being” and “Health & Safety.”
We evaluated those dimensions using 27 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest level of economic disadvantage. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available only at the state level and therefore half-weighted.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the city proper in each case and excluded cities in the surrounding metro area.
Economic Well-Being - Total Points: 60
- Child Poverty Rate: Triple Weight (~8.18 Points)
- Adult Poverty Rate: Triple Weight (~8.18 Points)
- Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Homelessness Rate: Triple Weight (~8.18 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of homeless persons per 1,000 residents.
- Presence of Homeless Criminalization Laws: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This is a binary metric that considers the presence or absence of such legislation.
- Change in Family Homelessness (2017 vs 2016): Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Well-Being Index: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.
- Consumer Bankruptcy Rate: Half* Weight (~1.36 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of nonbusiness bankruptcy filings per capita.
- Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Share of Owner Occupied Housing Units - without mortgage - Spending at Least 35% of Their Household Income on Housing: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Share of Delinquent Debtors: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Median Credit Score: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- High School Dropout Rate: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
- Undereducated Rate: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Note: This measures the percentage of population aged 25 years and over who did not graduate from high school.
- “Economic Security” Ranking: Half* Weight (~1.36 Points)
Note: This metric measures the state’s policy potential to improve the economic security of workers, families and retirees and is based on the Economic Security Scorecard produced by the WOW (Wider Opportunities for Women) nonprofit organization.
- Economic Mobility: Full Weight (~2.73 Points)
Health & Safety - Total Points: 40
- Uninsured Rate: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of residents without health insurance coverage.
- Food Insecurity Rate: Double Weight (~7.27 Points)
- Share of Homes with Inadequate Plumbing: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of occupied housing units without complete plumbing facilities.
- Share of Homes with Inadequate Kitchens: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of occupied housing units without complete kitchen facilities.
- Share of Severely Overcrowded Homes: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of occupied housing units that are considered “severely overcrowded”, meaning more than 1.5 persons occupy each room.
- Share of Offline Homes: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of households lacking a computer and broadband Internet service.
- Share of Adults Who Needed to See a Doctor but Couldn’t: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the share of adults who needed to see a doctor in the past year, but couldn’t because of costs.
- Share of Depressed Adults: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults who were diagnosed with depression.
- Suicide Rate: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
- Crime Rate: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Chmura Economics & Analytics, County Health Rankings, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Equality of Opportunity Project, Feeding America, Wider Opportunities for Women, ATTOM Data Solutions (RealtyTrac), Gallup-Healthways and TransUnion.
Image: Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com
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