The City Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty in Every State

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Source: Ecjmartin1 / Wikimedia Commons

1. Alabama: Dothan
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +4.5 ppts (4.0% to 8.5%)
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +1,452 people (920 to 2,372)
> 2010-2016 avg. annual GDP growth: +0.0% (Alabama: +0.8%)
> Unemployment: 22.6% (poor neighborhoods) 8.2% (all other)

The share of poor residents in the Dothan, Alabama, metro area living in neighborhoods with at least a 40% poverty rate — also referred to as the concentrated poverty rate — rose from 4.0% in 2010 to 8.5% in 2016, the largest increase of any city in the state. Over the same period, the statewide concentrated poverty rate rose from 10.4% to 14.1%, one of the larger increases of any state.

Areas with high concentrations of low-income families and individuals often face a range of challenges, including lower quality schools, limited access to health care, higher crime rates, and fewer job opportunities. As the share of poor residents living in poor neighborhoods in Dothan rose over the past several years, so did the unemployment rate in extreme poverty areas. While the unemployment rate outside of extreme poverty tracts in Dothan rose slightly from 7.3% in 2010 to 8.2% in 2016, the jobless rate in extreme poverty tracts rose from 16.2% to 22.6%.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Alaska: no city with concentrated poverty increase

Poverty is relatively uncommon in Alaska. The state’s poverty rate of 9.9% is well below the national rate of 15.1%. In its two major metropolitan areas, Anchorage and Fairbanks, there has not been a single census poverty tract in which more than 40% of the population lives in poverty in either 2010 or 2016. The overall poverty rates in those two metro areas are 8.5% and 7.8%, respectively.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Arizona: Flagstaff
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +13.6 ppts (0.0% to 13.6%)
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +3,823 people (0 to 3,823)
> 2010-2016 avg. annual GDP growth: +0.9% (Arizona: +1.7%)
> Unemployment: 14.0% (poor neighborhoods) 7.5% (all other)

Two neighborhoods in the Flagstaff metro area crossed the extreme poverty threshold — a poverty rate of at least 40% — between 2010 and 2016. Some 13.6% of Flagstaff’s 28,200 poor residents live in those two neighborhoods, higher than the national concentrated poverty rate of 11.6% yet far less than Arizona’s concentrated poverty rate of 21.7%.

As is the case in most metro areas on this list, economic growth has been slow in Flagstaff. From 2010 to 2016, Flagstaff’s economy grew at an average annual rate of just 0.9%, below the comparable growth rates statewide of 1.7% and nationwide of 2.0%.

Source: Thinkstock

4. Arkansas: Hot Springs
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +12.6 ppts (4.9% to 17.5%)
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +2,621 people (812 to 3,433)
> 2010-2016 avg. annual GDP growth: -0.6% (Arkansas: +1.2%)
> Unemployment: 16.2% (poor neighborhoods) 8.4% (all other)

The number of neighborhoods in which at least 40% of residents live in poverty the Hot Springs metro area rose from one in 2010 to three in 2016. Over the same period, the share of poor residents living within such neighborhoods in the metro area rose from 4.9% to 17.5%, the largest increase of any city in Arkansas.

Individuals living in concentrated poverty areas are less likely to complete high school and college. While in 2010 Hot Springs was one of the few metro areas nationwide in which college attainment was actually higher within extreme poverty tracts than outside, this has reversed as concentrated poverty increased over the last several years. Today, some 15.5% of adults within extreme poverty neighborhoods in Hot Springs have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 21.0% outside the city’s extreme poverty neighborhoods.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. California: Visalia-Porterville
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +17.5 ppts (14.4% to 31.9%)
> 2010-2016 increase in concentrated poverty: +26,603 people (13,945 to 40,548)
> 2010-2016 avg. annual GDP growth: +2.4% (California: +3.0%)
> Unemployment: 14.8% (poor neighborhoods) 9.7% (all other)

In the Visalia-Porterville metro area, the number of neighborhoods where at least 40% of the population lives in poverty more than doubled between 2010 and 2016, increasing from 6 to 16. Over the same period, the share of poor residents living in such neighborhoods rose from 14.4% to 31.9% — the largest increase of any city in California, and today one of the highest concentrated poverty rates in the nation.

Individuals in low-income areas are far less likely to complete high school and college. While some 16.0% of adults living outside of extreme poverty neighborhoods in Visalia-Porterville have a bachelor’s degree, just 4.5% do in the city’s extreme poverty neighborhoods.