Special Report

Cities Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty in Every State

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Alabama: Mobile
> Concentrated poverty rate: 19.7% of poor pop. live in poor neighborhoods
> Overall poverty rate: 19.3% (state: 17.3%)
> Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty: 20 out of 113
> 2018 Census unemployment rate: 13.9% in poor neighborhoods; 5.7% in all other neighborhoods

In the Mobile, Alabama, metro area, about 78,200 people live below the poverty line — and 19.7% of them live in neighborhoods where the poverty rate is 40% or higher. In neighborhoods with such concentrated poverty, upward economic mobility is particularly challenging. Job opportunities in Mobile’s poorest communities are especially limited. The jobless rate in these concentrated poverty areas stands at 13.9%, more than double the 5.7% jobless rate in all other neighborhoods in the metro area.

In Mobile, African Americans are far more likely to be affected by extreme poverty than other racial groups. Of metro area residents living in neighborhoods where 40% or more residents live in poverty, 86.0% are Black.

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Alaska: No metro area with concentrated poverty
> State poverty rate: 10.8%

In both metropolitan areas in Alaska — Anchorage and Fairbanks — less than one in every 10 residents live below the poverty line, a smaller share than the 13.9% national poverty rate and the 10.8% statewide rate. Not only is poverty less common in these cities, but those who are struggling financially are not as economically segregated as low-income Americans in cities across the country are. There are no Census tracts of concentrated poverty — tracts with poverty rates of 40% or higher — in either Anchorage or Fairbanks.

Source: Melikamp / Wikimedia Commons

Arizona: Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale
> Concentrated poverty rate: 13.8% of poor pop. live in poor neighborhoods
> Overall poverty rate: 14.6% (state: 15.9%)
> Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty: 49 out of 975
> 2018 Census unemployment rate: 8.5% in poor neighborhoods; 5.5% in all other neighborhoods

Phoenix’s overall poverty rate is lower than the statewide rate, at 14.6% compared to 15.9% across all of Arizona. Still, Phoenix’s poor residents are more likely to be isolated in predominantly poor neighborhoods than poor residents of any other metropolitan area in the state. Nearly 14% of the more than 666,000 Phoenix residents living below the poverty line live in the 49 metro area neighborhoods with concentrated poverty — where at least 40% of all residents have poverty level income.

Homeownership is a practical way for many Americans to build wealth. In Phoenix’s concentrated poverty neighborhoods, the homeownership rate stands at just 30.4%, less than half the homeownership rate of 63.9% in the metro area’s remaining neighborhoods.

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Arkansas: Hot Springs
> Concentrated poverty rate: 18.6% of poor pop. live in poor neighborhoods
> Overall poverty rate: 18.6% (state: 17.4%)
> Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty: 3 out of 20
> 2018 Census unemployment rate: 15.1% in poor neighborhoods; 6.4% in all other neighborhoods

In Hot Springs, Arkansas, 3,335 people live on poverty level income and in neighborhoods where at least 40% of residents live below the poverty line. The 18.6% concentrated poverty rate in Hot Springs is by far the highest of any of the six metropolitan areas in the state. In Little Rock, 9.8% of poor residents live in concentrated poverty neighborhoods, the second highest concentrated poverty rate in the state.

Cities with higher rates of concentrated poverty are often poorer than average, partially because upward economic mobility is typically limited in poor neighborhoods. The average household income in Hot Springs is $62,899, below both the state average of $64,423 and the national average of $85,123.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

California: Fresno
> Concentrated poverty rate: 33.2% of poor pop. live in poor neighborhoods
> Overall poverty rate: 24.1% (state: 14.1%)
> Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty: 35 out of 198
> 2018 Census unemployment rate: 14.5% in poor neighborhoods; 8.5% in all other neighborhoods

The hardships associated with poverty are often compounded for those also living in extremely poor neighborhoods. In Fresno, California, about one in every three of the 231,111 people living below the poverty line reside in neighborhoods where at least 40% of the population also lives on poverty level income.

Job opportunities appear to be far more limited in Fresno’s poorest neighborhoods than in other parts of the metro area. Unemployment in parts of the metro area where the poverty rate is at least 40% stands at 14.5%, well above the average unemployment rate of 8.5% in the remaining communities in Fresno.