Fresno Is US City Hardest Hit by Extreme Poverty

Among the cities hardest hit by extreme poverty, Fresno is in first place, according to a recent 24/7 Wall St. article titled “11 Cities Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty.” These are cities that have neighborhoods in which at least 40% of the residents are poor.

In the analysis done by 24/7, we laid out the case for Fresno:

Fresno, Calif.
> Post-recession chg. concentrated poverty rate: 19 percentage points
> Concentrated poverty rate: 44%
> Poor population: 254,008
> Post-recession chg. extremely poor neighborhoods: 33
> Poverty rate: 27.4%

Pockets of extreme poverty are emerging in most metropolitan areas across the country, but nowhere is it happening at a faster rate than in Fresno. The concentrated poverty rate grew by 19 percentage points over the past decade, much more than the 3 percentage point increase across the 100 largest U.S. metro areas.

Fresno has a long history of income inequality. In 1936, a government-sponsored corporation created a color-coded “Residential Security Map” for Fresno that graded its most racially diverse areas as the least suitable for development and set the foundation for the racial segregation of East and West Fresno. An influx of unskilled black and Hispanic workers in the 1960s and 1970s strengthened racial and income segregation as they settled in the dilapidated West Fresno. Over the last decade, extreme poverty has spread in both the downtown area and the suburbs, crossing the highway that divides East and West Fresno.

Methodology: To identify the major metropolitan areas where poverty is concentrating the fastest, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from a Brookings Institution report on concentrated poverty since the Great Recession. The concentrated poverty rate is the share of a metropolitan area’s poor population that lives in a census tract characterized by extreme poverty — having a poverty rate of 40% or higher. The concentrated poverty rate was reviewed for two periods: a five-year estimate for 2005 to 2009 and a five-year estimate for 2009 to 2014, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Census tracts in which more than 50% of the population is enrolled in postsecondary school, or where the total population is fewer than 500 were excluded from consideration of extreme poverty.