Here Is The Louisiana’s Poorest Town


Louisiana is known for its delicious cuisine, rich history, and complex cultural tapestry. However, despite its dynamism are serious issues such as poverty, inequality, and frequent natural disasters. With numbers at $23,094 and personal per capita income at $26,100, Louisiana is the state with the fourth lowest per capita income in the US, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

When exploring the state’s terrain, one learns something unexpected about the poorest community there. The 2020 American Community Survey five-year averages, released by the U.S. Census Bureau, show that Urania is the poorest town in the US overall as well as the poorest town in Louisiana. Urania’s predicament highlights harsh realities, with a poverty rate of 40.4% and a typical yearly income of just $12,358.

Urania is a small hamlet in central Louisiana’s La Salle Parish that has 1,313 residents according to the 2023 census. The town was founded in 1898 by renowned lumberman Henry E. Hardtner, whose name is derived from the Greek muse of astronomy, demonstrating the foresight of its founder. Hardtner was dubbed the “father of forestry in the South” due to his pioneering work in sustainable logging and regeneration.

The story of Urania is one of former wealth, with a thriving environment that includes a train station, hotel, bank, school, hospital, and even a theater. At its peak, it was home to the biggest sawmill in the world, producing 125,000 board feet of timber per day, living up to the town’s tagline, “The Town That Hardtner Built.”

Nevertheless, the Great Depression and the 1930s’ depletion of timber resources cast a shadow of collapse over Urania. The sawmill’s closure in 1938 was a devastating blow that sent many of the locals fleeing in search of better opportunities. Unfortunately, Urania never recovered from losing its economic fulcrum and instead became something of a ghost town.

Today’s Urania, devoid of opportunity and basic services, is a monument to neglect. The community’s terrible situation is highlighted by the lack of essential services like pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, schools, and medical facilities. The people’ predicament is made worse by deteriorating infrastructure and a lack of job opportunities, which feeds a vicious circle of hardship and poverty.

The effects of Urania’s poverty are felt by its people, who experience poor health, low levels of education, and ongoing economic instability. Chronic illnesses continue to spread, made worse by a lack of readily available medical care. The low rate of educational attainment continues to impede opportunities for career advancement, while food insecurity erodes the foundation of family stability.

However, there are rays of light scattered throughout the dismal terrain of Urania, propelled by community-based endeavors aimed at revitalization and regeneration. The most important of these is the Urania Community Development Corporation (UCDC), a pillar of strength working to bring the town back to life. The UCDC works to improve community welfare and revitalize Urania’s deteriorating infrastructure through outreach programs and restoration projects.

The enduring presence of organizations like Urania Baptist Church and Urania Elementary School adds even more to Urania’s resiliency. The former is a stronghold of education, fostering the development of young minds in the face of hardship, while the latter offers societal solidarity and spiritual comfort.

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