10 US Cities Where People Have The Biggest Financial Stress


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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the majority of Americans reported feeling anxious and stressed about their finances.

Researchers at the George Washington University Center for Global Financial Literacy and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that 60% of Americans in 2018 reported feeling anxious when thinking about their personal finances, while half said money causes them outright stress.

There are many reasons why a person may feel financial stress. Unemployment and rising housing costs are obvious factors, but there are a number of other factors that could play a role. With this in mind, SmartAsset set out to find the cities in the US that are experiencing the most financial stress in 2021. This is SmartAsset’s 2021 study of cities experiencing the greatest financial stress. Check out the 2020 version here.

We compared data for 86 of the largest US cities across eight metrics. For details on our data sources and how we bring all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section at the end.

Here are the big US cities where people are experiencing the greatest financial stress.

1. New Orleans, Los Angeles

New Orleans
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Not only does New Orleans have the highest unemployment rate in June 2021 in our study (12.0%), but Louisiana has the highest levels of food shortages (13.3%).

This scale measures the percentage of adults in homes where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat in the previous seven days.

Meanwhile, 23.2% of New Orleans residents live below the poverty line (the fifth highest) and about 14% of families spend 50% or more of their income on housing costs (also the fifth higher).

2. Corpus Christi, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas
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Located along the Texas Gulf Coast, Corpus Christi has the fifth-worst four-year change in median household income, at just 8.41%.

The city also has the 11th highest divorce rate (13.9%) and 14th highest unemployment rate (8.1%).

It has the 11th highest rate of recent housing insecurity, 7.6%, measured statewide.

3. Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas
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Like Corpus Christi, Houston, Texas, has a paltry four-year change in median household income (9.13%), sixth worst overall.

Nearly 1 in 5 Houstonians (19.7%) live below the poverty level, the 13th highest on this measure.

Meanwhile, the city’s unemployment rate was 7.4% in June 2021, higher than 75% of the cities in the study.

4. El Paso, Texas

El Paso, Texas
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Located along the US-Mexico border, El Paso, Texas, has the fourth-worst change in four-year median income (7.71%).

More than 18% of El Paso’s residents live below the poverty level, more than 65 other cities in the study.

The unemployment rate there was 7.3% in June 2021, which is number 24 in this study.

5. Miami, Florida

Miami, Florida
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Miami has the second highest percentage of households severely burdened with housing costs (18.45%), which means they spend 50% or more of their income on housing.

Florida as a whole has the third highest percentage (9.2%) of adults who missed the previous month’s rent or mortgage payments, or had little or no confidence that their family could pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time.

Meanwhile, 20.3% of Miami residents live below the poverty line, the tenth highest percentage across the entire study.

6. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland
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Baltimore, Maryland, has the 11th highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line (20.2%) and the 13th unemployment rate (8.4%) across the entire study.

Baltimore also has the 17th slowest four-year growth rate for median household income, up just 13.61%.

Maryland as a whole has the 15th highest rate of modern nutritional deficiencies (10.5%).

7. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio at night.
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San Antonio, Texas, ranked 10th from the bottom of the study for its four-year change in median household income (9.99%).

Texas has the highest percentage of people who report being unable to see a doctor due to cost (18.8%) and the 11th highest rate of recent housing insecurity (7.6%).

Just under 17% of San Antonio’s residents live below the poverty level, which is the 29th highest poverty rate for this study.

8. Dallas, Texas

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The fifth and final Texas city in the top ten, Dallas has the eighteenth highest percentage of households burdened with the cost of housing (11.28%).

Meanwhile, 11.4% of adults in Texas live in homes where they haven’t had enough to eat last week.

9. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland
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Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland, Ohio, has a higher percentage of residents living below the poverty line (30.8%) than any city in our study.

Cleveland also has the 11th highest divorce rate (13.9%) and the lowest change in median household income, ranked 13th over four years (11.18%).

Households burdened with the cost of severe housing account for 11.26% of all households in Cleveland.

10. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico
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New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque, had the third highest divorce rate in our study (14.9%).

In June 2021, Albuquerque’s unemployment rate was 7.9%, which is 16th out of all 86 cities.

Altogether, New Mexico has the tenth highest levels of recent housing insecurity (8.4%).

Data and methodology

Man, analyzing data on a laptop
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To find the cities with the greatest financial stress, we compared data for 86 of the largest US cities across the following eight metrics:

  • Unemployment rate. The data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for June 2021. The data is reported at the county level.
  • Percentage of the population living below the poverty line. The data comes from the 2019 American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau.
  • Percentage of households burdened with housing. This is the percentage of households who spent 50% or more of their income on housing costs. The data comes from the Census Bureau.
  • Recent housing insecurity. This is the percentage of adults who missed the previous month’s rent or mortgage payments, or who had little or no confidence that their family could pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time. The data comes from the Census Bureau and was collected in July and August 2021. The data is reported statewide.
  • Lack of food lately. This is the percentage of adults in households who had not had enough food sometimes or often in the previous seven days. The data comes from the Census Bureau and was collected in July and August 2021. Data is reported statewide.
  • Percentage of people reporting not seeing a doctor because of the cost. The data comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation and is for 2019. The data is reported statewide.
  • The four-year change in median household income. The data comes from 2015 and 2019 American Community Surveys conducted by the Census Bureau.
  • divorce rate. The data comes from the 2019 American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau.

First, we ranked each city on every scale. We then found the average ranking for each city, giving equal weight to each measure except for unemployment, which we gave a double weight.

We used this average order to create our final score. The city with the highest rank got a score of 100, while the city with the lowest rank got a score of 0.

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