The Growth and Spread of Concentrated Poverty

poverty

Reposted from the Brookings Institution Research Brief:

The economically turbulent 2000s have redrawn America’s geography of poverty in more ways than one. After two downturns and subsequent recoveries that failed to reach down the economic ladder, the number of people living below the federal poverty line ($23,492 for a family of four in 2012) remains stubbornly stuck at record levels. Today, more of those residents live in suburbs than in big cities or rural communities, a significant shift compared to 2000, when the urban poor still outnumbered suburban residents living in poverty.

But as poverty has spread, it has not done so evenly. Instead, it has also become more clustered and concentrated in distressed and high-poverty neighborhoods, eroding the brief progress made against concentrated poverty during the late 1990s. The nation’s 100 largest metro areas are home to 70 percent of all distressed census tracts, along with similar proportions of the total population and poor residents living in such neighborhoods. That’s not surprising, considering that, historically, concentrated poverty has been a largely urban phenomenon. However, larger shifts in the geography of poverty within these metro areas during the 2000s have also made concentrated poverty an increasingly regional challenge.

However, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in concentrated poverty over this time period. Between 2000 and 2008-2012, the number of suburban poor living in distressed neighborhoods grew by 139 percent—almost three times the pace of growth in cities. Of poor residents living in concentrated poverty in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, 26 percent lived in the suburbs in 2008-2012, up from 18 percent in 2000. All together, the growing prevalence of high-poverty and distressed neighborhoods in suburbs meant that, by 2008-2012, 38 percent of poor suburban residents lived in tracts with poverty rates of 20 percent or more—up from 27 percent in 2000.

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