Cities Where Poverty Is Declining, but for the Poor the Problem Is Actually Getting Worse

Print Email

Since the end of the financial crisis, the United States has experienced unprecedented economic growth and reached the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. While common indicators suggest the U.S. economy is prospering, major headlines often overlook one of the most important determinants of economic well-being: economic segregation. 

One of the most common consequences of economic growth in cities is the displacement of low-income residents into poor, declining neighborhoods. Another common occurrence is the migration of more affluent residents out of poorer neighborhoods, leaving behind only very low-income residents. These phenomena can occur even as the official poverty rate in a city stays the same, or even increases. 

In most U.S. metro areas, changes in the concentrated poverty rate mirror those of the official poverty rate. That is, the share of poor residents in poor neighborhoods increases as the overall share of individuals living in poverty increases, and vice versa. In some extreme cases, however, the concentrated poverty rate rises even as the overall poverty declines. 

In a slate of recent studies, researchers have shown how those living in concentrated poverty — people living below the poverty line in neighborhoods where at least 40% of residents are also poor — often have limited access to economic resources and are less likely to break the cycle of poverty than poor people living in wealthier neighborhoods. Click here to see the cities hit hardest by concentrated poverty in every state

To determine the cities where poverty is flat or down but where poverty is becoming more concentrated, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed changes in the distribution of poverty in U.S. metro areas from 2011 to 2017, using five-year data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. In these metro areas, the official poverty rate — the share of residents with income below the poverty line — fell, while the share of poor residents living in poor neighborhoods increased.  

Click here to see the full list of cities where poverty down, but where the problems for the poor are getting worse
Click here to read our detailed findings and methodology