Special Report

11 Cities Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty

In Phoenix, the share of poor people living in extremely poor neighborhoods increased by 16 percentage points after the recession to 26%. That increase was greater than every major metropolitan area except for Fresno, California.

Rapidly rising home prices can drive poor residents into very low-income neighborhoods, and like many of the metropolitan areas where poverty became more concentrated, Phoenix home prices rose rapidly in the years leading up to the recession. Prices are still about 35% higher than in 2009. In several of the metro areas where concentrated poverty rapidly increased, the neighborhoods that crossed the threshold into extreme poverty were mostly suburbs of major cities. In Phoenix, however, neighborhoods hit more than 40% poverty rates all over the metro area, including many neighborhoods near downtown Phoenix.

1. Fresno, CA
> 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.

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