For the nearly 46.9 million Americans living below the poverty line, financial insecurity affects nearly every aspect of daily life — from physical and mental health to achievement in education to personal relationships. Just as poverty takes a toll on the individual, communities where a large share of the population lives in poverty can also suffer tremendously.
The U.S. poverty rate stands at 14.6%. Concentrated poverty is defined as neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40% or more, that is, 40% of the neighborhood’s population lives below the poverty line. Individuals living on poverty level income in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods face not only the personal effects of poverty, but also the broader, communal effects. These often include higher crime rates, underperforming schools, and limited economic opportunity.
To identify the cities hit hardest by concentrated poverty in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau on the share of the population living below the poverty line in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas.
The cities on this list are not necessarily the poorest cities in the country. Several, including Ogden, Utah, and Dubuque, Iowa, actually have a lower poverty rate than the U.S. as a whole, but they still rank as the most economically segregated cities in their state. These are the cities with the highest poverty rates in the country. In five states, there are no metro areas with even one concentrated poverty tract. Four states — Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont — have only one metro area, so that area is by default the one with the highest concentrated poverty rate.
Concentrated-poverty neighborhoods foster a vicious cycle of poverty among those who live there — economic and social mobility in these places tend to be limited. In most of these cities, residents of concentrated poverty neighborhoods are less than half as likely to be homeowners and have a college education and more than twice as likely to be unemployed as residents of neighborhoods with poverty rates below 40%.
Often, non-white minority residents of the cities on this list are disproportionately affected by concentrated poverty. Several cities on this list also can be found among this list of the 15 worst cities for black Americans.