Cities Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty

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20. Worcester, MA-CT
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: 3.6 ppts (+6,132 people)
> Concentrated poverty rate: 12.0%
> 2010-2016 increase in number of poor neighborhoods: +4 (+100%)
> Unemployment in poor neighborhoods: 16.1%

Since 2010, the share of the Worcester metro area’s poor population living in neighborhoods where at least 40% of the population live below the poverty line increased by 3.6 percentage points to 12.0%. The increase in concentrated poverty was more rapid than in all but 19 other metro areas nationwide. Over the same period, the number of Worcester neighborhoods in which at least 40% of the population are poor doubled from four to eight.

Despite the rapid increase in concentrated poverty in the metro area, Worcester is not as poor as the country as a whole. Both the metro area’s overall poverty rate of 11.4% and concentrated poverty rate of 12.0% are below the corresponding national rates of 14.2% and 12.9%.

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19. Jackson, MS
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: 3.7 ppts (+8,948 people)
> Concentrated poverty rate: 31.6%
> 2010-2016 increase in number of poor neighborhoods: +4 (+20%)
> Unemployment in poor neighborhoods: 19.0%

The poverty rate in the Jackson metro area climbed since 2010 from 17.9% to 19.7%. Over the same period, poverty also became more concentrated in Mississippi’s capital city. Over the same time period, the metro area’s concentrated poverty rate climbed by 3.7 percentage points. Though the concentrated poverty rate increased for both the city’s black and white residents, the sharpest increase was among Hispanics. Some 25.3% of Hispanics who live below the poverty line live in extremely poor neighborhoods, an 8.5 percentage point increase from 2010.

People living in poor neighborhoods are much less likely to have a college education or a job than those living in a more financially secure neighborhood. In Jackson, just 11.3% of adults in poor neighborhoods have a bachelor’s degree compared to 31.9% of adults in the rest of the city. Additionally, the 19.0% unemployment rate in Jackson’s poor neighborhoods is nearly triple the 7.2% rate in the city’s more affluent areas.

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18. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: 3.9 ppts (+15,117 people)
> Concentrated poverty rate: 32.3%
> 2010-2016 increase in number of poor neighborhoods: +14 (+31%)
> Unemployment in poor neighborhoods: 18.1%

Neighborhoods with at least a 40% poverty rate are considered extremely poor. In Memphis, the share of poor people living in extremely poor neighborhoods increased by 3.9 percentage points since 2010 — one of the largest increases of any metro area nationwide. The increase disproportionately affected the city’s hispanic population as the share of poor Hispanics living in concentrated poverty more than doubled from 14.4% to 33.4% over the same period. Today, the concentrated poverty rate of 32.3% in Memphis is nearly the highest in the country and well above the U.S. concentrated poverty rate of 12.9%.

Economically depressed pockets of any city are more susceptible to high crime rates than more affluent areas. In Memphis, poor neighborhoods may account for a disproportionate share of the metro area’s near nation-leading annual violent crime rate of 1,082 incidents per 100,000 people.

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17. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: 4.3 ppts (+20,345 people)
> Concentrated poverty rate: 17.1%
> 2010-2016 increase in number of poor neighborhoods: +14 (+67%)
> Unemployment in poor neighborhoods: 17.4%

The concentrated poverty rate in the Indianapolis metro area climbed from 12.7% in 2010 to 17.1% in 2016 — a steeper percentage point increase than the vast majority of metro areas nationwide. As is the case in a number of cities on this list, the share of Hispanics living in pockets of extreme poverty increased faster than any other ethnic group. Fewer than 13% of poor Hispanics lived in neighborhoods with highly concentrated poverty in 2010. By 2016, nearly 25% did.

Economic opportunity is often scarce for residents of extremely poor neighborhoods. In the poorest parts of Indianapolis, the unemployment rate of 17.4% is well above the 6.5% rate in the city’s more affluent neighborhoods.

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16. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: 4.4 ppts (+6,080 people)
> Concentrated poverty rate: 14.0%
> 2010-2016 increase in number of poor neighborhoods: +5 (+71%)
> Unemployment in poor neighborhoods: 16.1%

Concentrated poverty is expanding faster in the Little Rock metro area than in all but 15 other metro areas nationwide. As recently as 2010, 9.6% of the poor population in and around the Arkansas state capital lived in highly poor neighborhoods, below the comparable 13.2% share nationwide. As of 2016, 14.0% of Little Rock’s poor population lived in high poverty neighborhoods, a larger share than the 12.9% of America’s poor that same year.

Economic conditions have also worsened in Little Rock’s poor neighborhoods over the same period. Today, some 16.1% of workers in high poverty neighborhoods around the metro are out of a job, up from 14.4% in 2010. Nationwide, the unemployment rate in high poverty neighborhoods improved from 17.6% to 16.3% over the same period.