The Highest Poverty Rate in Tennessee Goes to this Town

Poverty is a complex and varied issue that affects millions of Americans nationwide. According to the United States Census Bureau, the country’s overall poverty rate was 11.4% in 2019, down slightly from 11.8% in 2018.

Variations do exist between states and cities, reflecting differences in living costs, income levels, career possibilities, educational access, healthcare, and other aspects. Tennessee, for example, had a state poverty rate of 13.9% in 2019, just over the national average.

Further gaps exist within the state, with cities suffering large variances in poverty rates. Brentwood, for example, had a low rate of 5.7%, whereas Newport’s rate was substantially higher at 32.2%.

Newport, the Town with Highest Poverty Rate

The Highest Poverty Rate in Tennessee Goes to this Town

Newport, a town of 6,845 in Cocke County, has the unpleasant distinction of having the state’s highest poverty rate, according to data-driven media firm Stacker. Stacker assessed and ranked poverty levels in Tennessee cities using data from the 2019 American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau.

Newport’s poverty rate of 32.2% is approximately three times the state average and the highest among Tennessee’s 99 cities with populations greater than 5,000. Furthermore, Newport has the fourth-lowest median household income in the state, at $33,736 per year, and the greatest number of children under 18 living in poverty, at 33.2%.

While the exact reasons for Newport’s high poverty percentage are unknown, suspected contributing factors include restricted economic prospects, poorer educational attainment, a higher crime rate, and the impact of the opioid epidemic.

According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cocke County had an unemployment rate of 5.8% in December 2020, higher than the state average of 5.3%.

Furthermore, only 14.7% of Newport inhabitants have a bachelor’s degree or above, which is significantly lower than the statewide average of 28.5%, according to the United States Census Bureau. According to FBI data, the violent crime rate in Newport was 1,058.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2019, which is more than four times the state average of 247.8.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, Cocke County had the third highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the state in 2019, at 53.9 per 100,000 people—more than double the state average of 23.1.

Newport is hardly alone in its struggle with poverty. Other Tennessee cities with high poverty rates include Lawrenceburg, Covington, Brownsville, Paris, Martin, Ripley, McMinnville, Humboldt, and La Follette.

These cities face similar difficulties, including low income, high unemployment, limited education, rising crime rates, and extensive drug misuse.

Some Possible Solutions

The Highest Poverty Rate in Tennessee Goes to this Town

Raising the minimum wage, improving healthcare accessibility, refining education and training, creating more job opportunities, investing in infrastructure, reducing crime and violence, and strengthening social services and support are all potential solutions to poverty.

However, implementing these solutions requires collaboration and coordination across a wide range of stakeholders, including federal, state, and local governments, the commercial sector, non-profit organizations, and community members.


In addressing the complex issue of poverty in Tennessee, Newport’s alarming rates underscore the urgency for multifaceted solutions. Tackling economic disparities, improving education, and addressing substance abuse and crime are vital steps. Collaborative efforts involving government, private sectors, and communities are essential to uplift those struggling, fostering a more equitable and prosperous future for all Tennesseans.


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