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Kiryas Joel is the Poorest Place in the Country

By Matt King for the Times Herald-Record

Census Bureau data say more than two-thirds of Kiryas Joel residents live below the poverty line.

KIRYAS JOEL, NY — This village has always had the distinction of being a cultural and religious enclave, but now it can add another:

Kiryas Joel is the poorest place in the country.

Fact Box

Poverty rate
Kiryas Joel: 68 percent
Athens City, Ohio: 52 percent
State College, Pa.: 50 percent
Newburgh: 28 percent
Kingston: 19 percent
Middletown: 17 percent
Sullivan County: 13.9 percent
Ulster County: 11.6 percent
Orange County: 10.9 percent

Food stamp usage
Kiryas Joel: 41 percent
East St. Louis, Ill.: 40 percent
Prichard City, Ala.: 38 percent
Newburgh: 20 percent
Kingston: 12 percent
Middletown: 9 percent

Marriage rate of women ages 15-50
Kiryas Joel: 80 percent
Linton Hall, Va.: 78 percent
Fort Bragg, N.C.: 77 percent
Middletown: 42 percent
Kingston: 42 percent
Newburgh: 35 percent

Median age
Kiryas Joel: 14.4
Lakewood, N.J.: 20.4
Fort Hood, Texas: 20.6
Newburgh: 26.4
Middletown: 30.4
Kingston: 35.7

Source: American Community Survey,

According to the latest round of U.S. Census figures, released late last year, the village has the highest poverty rate in the nation, and the largest percentage of residents who receive food stamps. Only one other place in the 50 states has a lower median income. The median household income in Kiryas Joel is $15,848; in Carbondale, Ill., it’s $15,799.

More than two-thirds of Kiryas Joel residents live below the federal poverty line and more than 40 percent receive food stamps, according to the American Community Survey, a U.S. Census Bureau study of every place in the country with 20,000 residents or more.

That makes the village poorer than crumbling big cities like Detroit and noted slums like East St. Louis, and by far the poorest place in the mid-Hudson.

The poverty rate in Newburgh, the next-poorest place, is 28 percent. Regionwide, it’s about 11.5 percent. Places in the country with poverty rates similar to Kiryas Joel are mostly college towns with large populations of students who don’t have full-time jobs.

Village officials did not return calls seeking comment, but an expert in Hasidic communities said the poverty figures are tied strongly to the village’s religious culture and mores.

Pressure to have many children and the demand to send them to expensive private schools, combined with a low number of people who go to college or leave the village to get higher-paying jobs, produces a static and poor society, said Samuel Heilman, professor of Jewish studies at Queens College.

“This is a population that sees childbirth as a sign of high status and for women a fulfillment of their divine and socially sanctioned role in life,” Heilman said. “They are also an insular community that see life on the inside superior to the outside.”

The tendency toward large families is borne out in the American Community Survey data.

The median age in the village is 14.4, meaning half of its more than 21,000 residents is 14 or younger.

Also, the village has the highest marriage rate in the country, with 80 percent of women ages 15 to 50 being married.


  • 1. laughing to the bank wrote:

    On paper, yes, but in practice…go see how much designer stuff these women buy in Woodbury Common. Even at outlet prices, a decent outfit is %400+.

    Yes, they have B”H many children & yes, most families are on welfare. But there is plenty of money there for their maids (who live together in dormitory houses) & other things I can’t give to my family. Now they’ll get even more govt. help.

  • 2. Not Even Close wrote:

    So by your own source of information, the headline should read “Kiryas Joel is the Second Poorest Village per capita”
    It is not the poorest place in the country. It is not poorer statistactly than any of the Slums of Detroit, or certainly the neighborhoods of New Orleans that were largely wiped out in Hurricane Katrina to name a few. Has the author of this article been to any of those places, I have, believe me Kiryas Joel is nothing close; it isn’t even as bad as Newburgh! Keep in mind that the census has flawed guidelines for figuring their facts. They do not count the homeless, unregistered unemployed citizens, illegal immigrants, residents of unregistered property etc. They hire uneducated barely literate temporary employees who go door to door. Not home, not counted, don’t feel like it, not counted, no english, not counted, and so on. These figures mean next to nothing.
    Stats can be read to say anything you want with careful semantic use.
    I can’t imagine the author’s intention in writing this article.
    You want to know what a poor neighborhood looks like, go to the West side of Philly, or Chicago. Too far, take another look at Newburgh, or some of the towns in Columbia county, then count your blessings for Kiryas Joel.

  • 5. maybe im misinformed... wrote:

    I thought Sotmars are rich…
    and in kiryas yoel they have that frum school for disabled children, coming from all parts of new york – isnt it officially a public school, so it gets help from the govt?
    and why are we talking about this on

  • 7. and so wrote:

    the bugaboo is just a tip of the iceberg. what bout the S.U.Vs they all drive. i think they peronaly kept them in business.

  • 8. missing the punchilne bugabooers! wrote:

    u guys are so dumb just bc 1 person has a bugaboo doesnt meen that shes ich or that anybody else has 1. me she is part of that lil percentage who doesnt have foodstamps or is lower then fed gov poverty.
    u guys are realy dumb u totsly dont get the articles punchline!

  • 11. aleph wrote:

    azehhoo asheer mee hoo sameach bchelko
    pirkei avos
    g-d blees the children of israel and america

  • 13. michal wrote:

    I am shocked that you posted this on your website. I expect this article would be posted on Jewish liberal websites. But a Chabad site? For shame.

  • 14. yae wrote:

    to missing the punchline-
    what’s the matter with you?
    you guys are all so dumb? waht’s that supposed to mean?
    grow up and speak like a mentch.
    so basically, i don’t think they’re poor, but…if they are…Hashem should help them, and we should focus on our community first.

  • 15. Fancy houses and kids on Head Start, R L wrote:


    This is called a chillul Hashem. No matter how you look at it — either that they really are that poor, or that they are just really good at ”working the system,“ it’s a chillul Hashem.

    I’ve always thought that it’s only a matter of time before the liberal press starts poking around the frum communities, and sees what’s going on with our communities and the high amount of use of public assistance programs.

    If the reporter had come to Crown Heights, I’m sure the statistics would be about the same (certainly close) — how else do you explain that in most of our preschools, the number of preschoolers who are NOT in ”Head Start“ (a Federal program for ”low-income people,” designed to help the poor make up for the educational disadvantages they are reputed to have) can just about halfway fill ONE classroom when the Government inspectors come to town.

    Anyone who can’t stomach this truth had better take a look in the mirror, and see if they can really look themselves in the eye!

  • 16. haha wrote:

    wait till the govenment finds this out…they all have foodstamps but drive lincon navigators and other high end cars. sooner or later they will see that something doesnt match up. and the bugaboo thing was funny.

  • 17. dont foul yourself wrote:

    its obviously not only the bugaboo….its the designer outfit that this kid is probably wearing also….and it’s probably mtching all the brothers and sisters…..those people are not poor and far from it,they dicided to live like this that way no one would come close to them….thety have whatever they need and even more in their household…..from furniture and clothing…..and by the way they are almost all owners of their apprt!!!!

  • 19. C M wrote:

    “The Satmars are rich” “check out the bugaboo”.

    You are like the anti-Semites who say that all Jews are rich and swindlers because of Madoff.

    This is Sinas Chinam and Motzi Shem Ra.

  • 20. Shloime wrote:

    I am shocked at how on this website are gossiping about their fellow Yidden. I guess, or at least hope, that this blog doesn’t reflect the whole of Lubavitch just as this article doesn’t reflect the whole of Satmar.

    It is utterly distasteful reading the comments that were posted here. NOT a single one that I read said anything nice. If this article appared in their community about us, the response would be ‘how can we help our poor brethern’. If yoou don’t buy into the authenticity of the rticle then shvaig. You need not rant everything that comes from your mouth. Learn a lesson from the dogs in this weeks Parsha; even they knew how not to bark at some point.

    May everyone learn that they have a precious brain endowed to us by the Almighty and it’s about time to start learning to use it!

  • 21. s r g wrote:

    mqaybe they have rich realive that are supporting them. charity does start at home. do not talk untill you hace walked in their shoes for a mile. after that you would not be alble to walk. and no i am not of them i happen to be chabad and i do not have any satmar friends!!!

  • 22. ahavas yisroel wrote:






  • 23. Please Think before you Judge wrote:

    Please think before writing your comments. By bringing comments that are judgmental on THAT community, we
    can Has V’Shalom bring judgment on all, including our own.

  • 24. Dovid wrote:

    You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that it is technically impossible to raise a large family on $15,848.

    Unfortunately, many in Kiryas Joel (and other Chasidic communities including Crown Heights) are misreporting their real income in order to take advantage of welfare programs that they do not qualify for.

    That such fraud and theft is condoned by people who claim to embody authentic Yiddishkeit, is indicative of how far we as a people have drifted from our roots.

  • 25. Empty wallet wrote:

    If there is a taxpayer riot and revolt Kiryas Joel will be one of the reasons.

    Only in America can people like this live off our tax dollars that are soon to go up.

    And soon there will be over 10,000 more on our dole as their kids grow up and marry and have more welfare grubbers.

    Sadly it looks like this once great country is heading for a deep derpression and the well intentioned money that we pay out in welfare to truly needy people is being drained off in towns of welfare beggers like these.

  • 26. don-t fool me wrote:

    That’s only reported income- If you add all the other money they make, they’ll be way above middle class! The schtick capital of the world.

  • 27. Govt handout family wrote:

    TO:“missing the punchilne bugabooers!”
    I can guess that you are on foodstamps, medicaid and living in section 8 and recieving WIC while you use your husband’s “off the books” job to pay for your bugaboo stroller. Enjoy!

  • 28. me wrote:

    hashem sould help all the people in kiryas joel to have what ever they need (including bugaboo’s)

  • 29. IRS wrote:

    Ye sure!!

    They live off our taxes, they build their own housing and because everyone makes money off the books, they all live in section 8, they receive food stamps so all their food is covered and their schools are considered public schools and are maitained and funded strictly by the goverment so it’s no cost to them.

  • 30. chesed wrote:

    No one gives gashmiustic chesed like the Satmars do. You are supposed to assume the best of fellow Yidden. Many of these people have rich extended families that buy them these things when they get married and have kids, but they are forced to live very frugally on a day to day basis. I am a Lubavitcher who is thoroughly ashamed of the comments on this web site. This is what learning Chassidus has got us? Wall-to-wall loshon hara?

  • 32. Naive wrote:

    Whoa, why is everyone automatically assuming that the comments are sinas-chinam based, LH, motzi sheim rah, etc.
    to C M – i see that you commented on my previous comment, where i wrote “i thought sotmars are rich” – i was merely thinking out loud, that until now i had had one perception of them, and was just wondering why they are being portrayed here as so poor. I was asking for an explanation of this contradiction- was it merely my own uninformed thoughts, or was there any truth to it. Please dont compare me, or other commenters to anti-semites.

  • 33. syphilis wrote:

    i giggled about the bugaboo
    i envy the nice cars
    dont discriminate those who are smart enough to recieve full incomes while driving around in hotttt cars with cherry lights

  • 34. Al Todin wrote:

    Put the article in perspective.

    1) Federal poverty guideline for a family of 2 is $14,570 and for a family of eight it is $37,010. So more religious families, who tend to have more family members, will be bellow the guideline; even when compared to other families making the same amount.
    2) The article notes that “college towns with large populations of students who don’t have full-time jobs” have higher amount of poverty rate. Kiryas Joel has a significant number of students, so the overall poverty rate will be higher.
    3) In every neighborhood there are those who earn more and those who earn less. Seeing some more well to do in any neighborhood does not mean that everyone can live at the same standards.
    4) In religious neighborhoods specifically, the wealthy and the poor live close together, so expect seeing some pricy items in the neighborhood. Many of these people share their largess with fellow neighbors and help all community residence.

  • 36. avremele wrote:

    Baby carriages are generally received as gifts. When 12 people chip in it really isn’t that much.

    Second-of-all, people on welfare living in homeless shelters shell out a few hundred dollars a year for a cellphone. These people aren’t getting a new bugaboo every time they have a child.

  • 37. Jane Wilder wrote:

    even if one gets any support of any kind, including gifts from relatives it HAS to be reported. No one can afford a Linclon Navigator on even 40$ a year with that many children. This is a flat our rip off and it just increases American distrust of all those who want to be separate. If you want no part of American culture, pay no taxes and just take take take, what do you expect people to think Look at the Amish? They don’t do that.

  • 38. No Different in Boro Park or Monsey wrote:

    My experience over the years has been that frum Jews, particularly those living in Boro Park, Kiryas Yoel, etc., have made “working the system” an art form. Businesses operate on cash, have no paper trails, people are paid in cash and do not maintain bank accounts…the list goes on and on. I found that it’s simply an accepted practice to reporting income, paying income and sales taxes, etc, in order to collect a maximum of government benefits.

    I do not know where in the Torah such behavior is permitted. To me, it’s fraud and theft, pure and simple. My very hard-earned salary’s tax dollars are going to pay for the free benefits enjoyed by those who systematically evade taxes and reporting true income. It’s positively shameful, a Chilul Hashem, and an embarrassment to the frum Jewish world.


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