New York Satmar town is US poorest

April 28, 2011

A strictly Orthodox township in upstate New York is the poorest place in the United States, according to the Census Bureau.

The mainly Satmar enclave of Kiryas Joel, in Orange County, has a higher proportion of its residents living in poverty than any other town in the country, but little crime or homelessness. Around 70 per cent of its 21,000 population live below the federal poverty levels and half earn less than $15,000 [£9,000] a year.

The large families mean the average age of a resident is just 12, and most devote their life to Torah study.

The community does pursue economic activities, though. A kosher poultry factory - processing 40,000 chickens a day - is community-owned and run as a non-profit organisation, while a matzah bakery is owned by a synagogue.

The community wields political influence as it usually votes en masse for candidates who provide the best services, and a $10 million 60-bed postnatal maternal care unit was built in the town using state and federal grants.

Republican congresswoman Nancy Calhoun said: "They may be truly poor on paper. They are not truly poor in reality."

Last updated: 11:41am, April 28 2011