Discover the Poorest Town in Washington

Written by Alyssa Shea
Updated: September 20, 2023
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There is conflicting information about which town is the poorest in Washington state. Most can agree, though, that the city of Yakima in Yakima County is the most impoverished. Let’s explore the history behind this city and find out why this area is known for having the most destitute citizens in the state.

View of a valley and city with clouds and mountain range in the background.

Though scouted by Lewis and Clark in 1805, the Yakima Valley wasn’t established until 1847 by Catholic missionaries.

©Michelle Baumbach/iStock via Getty Images

Where Is Yakima, Washington, Located?

Yakima is located in the Upper Valley of Yakima County, which is nestled in central Washington. It’s about a 2-hour drive to Seattle. There are over 95,000 residents living in this small city, which offers an authentic small-town vibe. Due to this, it’s known as the state’s 11th-largest city by population. This area is known for its agriculture, so you’re sure to see plenty of farms. This city is close to the Cascade Mountains and offers plenty of scenic views. You will also find Mount Rainier National Park, Wenatchee National Forest, and Mount Adams close by, along with plenty of lakes and streams.

What Is Yakima, Washington, Known For?

Did you know that Yakima Valley produces 40% of the state’s wine? The number of wineries in the state has only increased since 1980, so state officials created the American Viticulture Area (AVA) in the Yakima Valley in 1983. They boast some of the most exceptional wine-tasting experiences! Most of the nation’s hops are also grown here, a key ingredient of beer. Aviation is also booming here, with plenty of aerospace-related businesses in the area. Thanks to its proximity to mountains and lakes, many outdoor enthusiasts are pleased with the variety of options for activities.

Fine Row of Luscoius Grapes in Wine Vintner's Vineyard

The climate in Yakima Valley and abundant sunshine create the perfect environment for grapes to grow.

©Chris Boswell/iStock via Getty Images

What Is the Crime Rate in Yakima?

Unfortunately, Yakima has a severe gang problem. Historically, Yakima has had a higher violent crime rate than the rest of the country. Yakima police released an analysis of violent crime statistics, stating that Yakima is 4.5 times the national average. The FBI has even focused its efforts on the city due to gang violence by creating a task force dedicated to combating crime in the area. Many people avoid traveling through this area due to the risks involved.

Why Is Yakima the Poorest Town in Washington?

The biggest problem Yakima faces is the issues with crime, a low median household income of only $44,950, a lack of tourism, and inefficient public schooling. Only 34% of students are proficient in math and 42% in reading. It also doesn’t help that 55% of students are also economically disadvantaged. Most adults don’t have a 4-year degree, either. Many residents depend on government assistance to afford basic necessities.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Robert Kyllo/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

I'm a 36-year-old mother of 2 and military wife. I have 2 dogs and a cat that I'm thoroughly obsessed with. When I'm not writing for work, I'm writing as a hobby. You can find me knee deep in a pile of books or way too invested in a video game.

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