There are an estimated 39.5 million Americans living below the poverty line, which, in the lower 48 states, is an annual income threshold of $12,880 for an individual and $26,500 for a family of four (Alaska and Hawaii have a slightly higher threshold). Living in poverty can have serious consequences and impacts nearly every aspect of life — and those problems can be compounded for those who are facing poverty while also living in very poor neighborhoods.
Residents of poor neighborhoods often struggle with higher crime rates, limited employment opportunities, lower school quality, and poor health outcomes. For those living on poverty level income, each of these factors reduces the likelihood of upward economic mobility.
There are nine metro areas in Virginia — and five of them have no neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40% or higher. Of the four remaining metro areas in the state, Roanoke has by far the highest concentrated poverty rate. An estimated 15.9% of Roanoke’s poor population reside in high-poverty neighborhoods, well above the 10.8% concentrated poverty rate in Richmond, the second highest rate among Virginia metro areas.
Areas with high concentrations of poverty typically have fewer opportunities for local residents to improve their financial situation. In Roanoke’s poorest communities, 9.0% of the labor force are unemployed, more than double the 4.4% jobless rate in the rest of the metro area.
All data used in this story are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. We only considered census tracts, or neighborhoods, with at least 500 people and college or graduate school enrollment below 50%. Metro areas were also excluded if over 25% of the population in tracts or neighborhoods of concentrated poverty were college or university students.
|Metro area with worst extreme poverty||Poor residents in high-poverty neighborhoods||Overall poverty rate||Overall poverty rate, statewide|
|Arkansas: Little Rock||7.8%||15.0%||17.0%|
|Connecticut: New Haven||12.7%||11.7%||9.9%|
|Missouri: Cape Girardeau||27.9%||16.4%||13.7%|
|Montana: Great Falls||19.8%||13.3%||13.1%|
|Nevada: Las Vegas||5.1%||13.7%||13.1%|
|New Hampshire: Manchester||2.9%||7.8%||7.6%|
|New Jersey: Trenton||21.3%||11.7%||10.0%|
|New Mexico: Las Cruces||26.1%||26.3%||19.1%|
|New York: Buffalo||27.4%||14.0%||14.1%|
|North Carolina: Goldsboro||12.5%||20.2%||14.7%|
|North Dakota: None||N/A||N/A||10.7%|
|Oklahoma: Oklahoma City||9.2%||13.7%||15.7%|
|Rhode Island: Providence||4.0%||12.0%||12.4%|
|South Carolina: Columbia||7.9%||14.4%||15.2%|
|South Dakota: None||N/A||N/A||13.1%|
|West Virginia: Huntington||14.8%||18.8%||17.6%|