FILE - Downtown Detroit

Downtown Detroit

Detroit and Cleveland are the country's neediest cities, according to an analysis of 180 U.S. cities by the consumer financial website WalletHub.

A little more than 12 percent of the U.S. population lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Three cities tie for having the highest child poverty rate in the U.S. – Cleveland, Detroit, and Rochester, N.Y., according to the WalletHub analysis.

Five cities with the highest adult poverty rates are Detroit; Cleveland; Huntington, West Virginia; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Rochester, N.Y.

"Detroit is the neediest city in America,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “Its poverty rate is among the highest, both for children (54.5 percent), as well as the adult population (32.3 percent), and it has the highest unemployment rate, at 9.2 percent.”

“The city's consumer bankruptcy rate is also among the highest, and a large share of owner households spend more than a third of their income on housing expenses,” Gonzalez adds. “Another consequence of the city's poor economic situation is a very low credit score."

Cleveland also struggles with poverty, Gonzalez points out, with 51.6 percent of children and 31.3 percent of adults living below the poverty line. Cleveland has the third highest unemployment rate of 6.7 percent and its foreclosure rate is the highest in the country.

“Cleveland, like many cities across the Midwest, has faced challenges adapting to an increasingly technology-based economy,” Andrew J. Kidd, economist at the Buckeye Institute, said. “This has left many families struggling to make ends meet, especially in areas where manufacturing used to be the dominant industry.”

Ohio needs to promote policies that encourage and attract good-paying, sustainable jobs to reverse the trend, Kidd added.

"For example, one area where the state can make a change is encouraging vocational schools and training in the trades," he said. "Every year, jobs as diverse as electricians and licensed practical nurses go unfilled and pay between $40,000 and $50,000.”

The report compares 182 U.S. cities, including the 150 most populated cities, in addition to at least two of the most populated cities in each state. It scored cities across two key dimensions, “Economic Well-Being” and “Health & Safety” using 27 key indicators of economic disadvantage, including child poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and uninsured rates.

Cities with the highest homelessness rates are Honolulu, Fresno, Washington, D.C., Boston, New York and San Francisco, according to the analysis. The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that nearly 554,000 people, including children, were homeless at one point in January 2017.

“Homelessness persists, and in some cases is on the rise, in some of our biggest cities,” Suzanne Wenzel, Richard M. and Ann L. Thor, professor in Urban Social Development at the University of Southern California, says. “Even if we talk about families where one or both parents are employed, there is risk of homelessness if income is low and because of the high costs of housing and the limited availability of affordable housing in some areas.”

“When cost of living and specifically cost of housing is factored in, the poverty rate in California is around 20 percent,” Wenzel adds.

The WalletHub analysis found that four of the top five cities in the U.S. reporting the highest uninsured rates are all in Texas: Brownsville, Laredo, Dallas, and Houston.

The cities with the highest food insecurity, people who have the least access to food or ability to purchase food, WalletHub found, are St. Louis; New Orleans; Augusta, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; and Memphis.

According to Feeding America, food insecurity affects every U.S. county, with 40 million individuals lacking access to adequate food.

To assist low-income families, University of Maryland School of Social Work Professor Daniel Thursz suggests that government officials increase the minimum wage and establish a living wage. He also cites the earned income tax credit, expanding access to Medicaid and public health programs, increasing funding for K-16 education, construction of affordable housing, and continued funding of Social Security and Medicare, as beneficial.

WalletHub's report was based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Gallup-Healthways, among others.