The hardships faced by many of the 38 million Americans living in poverty are difficult to overstate. A poverty-level income is, by definition, insufficient to afford basic necessities, such as clean water, food, medical care, and housing. Many of the poorest Americans also live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty – and such an environment can compound daily suffering and reduce the likelihood of upward socioeconomic mobility.
High-poverty neighborhoods – defined as those in which 40% or more of the population live below the poverty line – tend to have higher crime rates, poorer health outcomes, lower-quality schools, and fewer employment opportunities than communities with less poverty. These factors impact people of all income levels who reside in high-poverty neighborhoods, but for those who are also poor, the negative effects are even more pronounced.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metro area in each state with the highest concentrated poverty. Metro areas are ranked by the share of residents living below the poverty line who also reside in a census tract with a poverty rate of at least 40% – a high-poverty neighborhood. So while two metro areas can have the same poverty rate, in one, residents under the poverty line live throughout the city and may benefit from better services in higher-income neighborhoods, while in the other, they are concentrated in a few neighborhoods where services and conditions tend to also be insufficient.
Among the metro areas on this list, the concentrated, or extreme poverty rate ranges from about 1.5% to over 40%. The places on this list with the worst concentrated poverty tend to be in the South, though many are also in Midwestern cities that have suffered for decades from deindustrialization, automation, and globalization. (Here is a look at America’s fastest dying industries.)
Economic mobility is limited in the high-poverty neighborhoods in many of these metro areas, hindered by low educational attainment levels and high unemployment rates. In most of the cities hit hardest by extreme poverty in each state, the jobless rate in poor neighborhoods is more than double the rate in the rest of the city. (Here is a look at the states where poverty is much worse than you think.)
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