The Name of Pennsylvania’s Poorest Town Has Been Revealed

Braddock, Pennsylvania, currently holds the title of the poorest town in the state. This small town, with a population of approximately 1,688 as of 2023, is located in Allegheny County, about 10 miles east of Pittsburgh​​​​. Braddock’s economic challenges are deeply rooted in its history and the broader context of industrial decline in the United States.

Historical Context and Economic Decline

  1. Industrial Beginnings: Braddock’s history is closely tied to the steel industry. Its industrial economy began in 1873 when Andrew Carnegie built the Edgar Thomson Steel Works, one of the first American steel mills to use the Bessemer process. For a time, this made Braddock a hub of innovation and commerce​​.
  2. Demographic Changes: The early 1900s saw a surge in immigration to Braddock, primarily from Croatia, Slovenia, and Hungary, as people came to work in the thriving steel industry​​.
  3. Deindustrialization: The collapse of the steel industry in the 1970s and 1980s, combined with the crack cocaine epidemic of the early 1980s, significantly impacted Braddock. The town was designated a financially distressed municipality in 1988. These events led to a dramatic decline in Braddock’s population and economic stability​​.

Current Economic State

  1. Poverty Statistics: The median household income in Braddock is currently $22,670, with a poverty rate of around 40%, the highest in Pennsylvania. This represents a stark contrast to the past when the median income was above the national average​​​​.
  2. Population Decline: Braddock’s population has decreased significantly from its peak of over 20,000 in 1920 to less than 10% of that number today​​.

Efforts Towards Revitalization

Despite its economic struggles, Braddock is a town striving for revitalization and growth:

  1. Community Initiatives: Various community initiatives aim to improve the quality of life in Braddock. These include the Braddock Carnegie Library, the first Carnegie library in the nation, the Braddock Farms urban agriculture project, the Braddock Youth Project, and the Braddock Community Oven​​.
  2. Leadership and Vision: Former Braddock mayor John Fetterman, who served from 2006 until his inauguration as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania in 2019, has been instrumental in efforts to attract new residents from artistic and creative communities and initiate various revitalization efforts, such as the nonprofit organization Braddock Redux​​.


Braddock is more than its economic struggles; it is a town with a rich history and potential for resilience and growth. Beyond its challenges, Braddock deserves respect and support as it continues to strive for a brighter future​​. The story of Braddock is a reminder of the complexities and challenges faced by post-industrial towns in America and the enduring spirit of communities that work towards revival and prosperity.