Cities Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty

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By several measures, the United States is in a period of historic economic growth and prosperity. Major stock market indices have hit record highs, unemployment is at a near two-decade low, and we are in the midst of what may prove to be the longest period of sustained GDP growth in U.S. history.

However, amid all the good news, the poverty rate is on the rise, and several U.S. cities are becoming increasingly geographically and socially segregated by income.

The poverty level in the continental United States is set at annual income of $25,100 for a family of four, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The share of Americans living below that income threshold climbed from 12.7% to 14.2% between 2010 and 2016. As poverty has affected more Americans, it has also has become more geographically concentrated. The number of neighborhoods nationwide in which 40% or more of the population lives in poverty climbed by 21.7% over the same period.

This increased concentration of poverty is far more pronounced in certain metropolitan areas. The share of poor residents living in extremely poor neighborhoods — defined as those with a poverty rate of at least 40% — climbed by more than 3.5 percentage points in 20 metro areas in the last six years.

Such high poverty neighborhoods are often characterized by high crime rates, low educational attainment rates, and high unemployment. Partially as a result, those living in these extremely poor neighborhoods are at a greatly reduced likelihood of success and upward economic mobility.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. compared the percentage point change in concentrated poverty rates in U.S. metro areas between 2010 and 2016 to identify the cities where concentrated poverty is increasing most. The cities on this list span the United States geographically, from the West Coast to the East and from the South to the Midwest.

Click here to see the cities hit hardest by extreme poverty.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Springfield as the capital of Massachusetts. The error has been corrected.