Special Report

Cities Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty in Every State

Source: renal / Getty Images

New Mexico: Las Cruces
> Concentrated poverty rate: 25.8% of poor pop. live in poor neighborhoods
> Overall poverty rate: 27.5% (state: 19.8%)
> Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty: 6 out of 40
> 2018 Census unemployment rate: 12.9% in poor neighborhoods; 7.1% in all other neighborhoods

Las Cruces is the poorest metro area in New Mexico and one of the poorest in the United States. The city’s 27.5% poverty rate is well above both the state and national poverty rates of 19.8% and 13.9%, respectively. Those living in poverty in Las Cruces are also far more likely than most Americans living in poverty to be economically segregated from more prosperous neighborhoods. More than one in every four of the 57,456 Las Cruces residents living in poverty reside in neighborhoods with poverty rates of at least 40%.

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New York: Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls
> Concentrated poverty rate: 23.4% of poor pop. live in poor neighborhoods
> Overall poverty rate: 14.2% (state: 14.6%)
> Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty: 26 out of 291
> 2018 Census unemployment rate: 9.5% in poor neighborhoods; 4.6% in all other neighborhoods

The 14.2% poverty rate in the Buffalo metropolitan area is slightly below the 14.6% poverty rate across all of New York state. While residents of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, and Niagara Falls are less likely to live below the poverty line than most New Yorkers, those who do are more likely to be segregated into predominantly poor communities. Of all people living below the poverty line in the Buffalo metro area, 23.4% also live concentrated-poverty neighborhoods — the largest share of any of the dozen metro areas across the state.

In Buffalo, minority populations disproportionately reside in concentrated poverty neighborhoods. Just 11.8% of metro area residents are Black and just 4.8% are Hispanic or Latino. In the 26 metro area neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40% or higher, 37.6% of residents are Black and 19.6% are Hispanic or Latino.

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North Carolina: Wilmington
> Concentrated poverty rate: 13.2% of poor pop. live in poor neighborhoods
> Overall poverty rate: 16.4% (state: 15.3%)
> Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty: 4 out of 56
> 2018 Census unemployment rate: 10.9% in poor neighborhoods; 5.9% in all other neighborhoods

In Wilmington, North Carolina, 13.2% of the population who lives below the poverty line resides in concentrated poverty neighborhoods. Climbing out of poverty can be far more difficult for those living in economically disadvantaged communities, in part because of the relative lack of employment opportunities. Unemployment in Wimington’s poorest neighborhoods stands at 10.9%, well above the jobless rate of 5.9% in the rest of the metro area.

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North Dakota: No metro area with concentrated poverty
> State poverty rate: 10.5%

None of the three metro areas in North Dakota — Bismarck, Fargo, and Grand Forks — have any neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40% or higher. As recently as 2013, both Bismarck and Fargo each had one neighborhood of concentrated poverty. However, in the years since, the unemployment rate in both cities improved — from 3.2% in 2013 to 2.5% in 2018 in Bismarck and from 4.1% to 2.6% over the same period in Fargo. Over the same five-year stretch, the overall poverty rate in Bismarck fell from 9.5% to 9.3% and in Fargo, from 11.9% to 10.0%.

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Ohio: Toledo
> Concentrated poverty rate: 29.0% of poor pop. live in poor neighborhoods
> Overall poverty rate: 16.9% (state: 14.3%)
> Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty: 27 out of 161
> 2018 Census unemployment rate: 15.7% in poor neighborhoods; 5.6% in all other neighborhoods

Toledo is the most economically segregated city in Ohio. Of the nearly 100,000 metro area residents living below the poverty line, 29.0% reside in concentrated poverty neighborhoods. Climbing out of poverty is likely far more difficult in Toledo’s poorest communities as the unemployment rate is nearly three times higher in areas of concentrated poverty than in the other parts of the metro area.

Minority groups make up a disproportionately large share of the population in Toledo’s economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Though Toledo is only 13.9% Black, 42.0% of the population in the metro area’s high poverty neighborhoods is Black.

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