Pockets of poverty grow in US - study

2011-11-03 11:30

Washington - The problem of poverty became more acute in many US neighbourhoods in the Midwest and South over the last decade, threatening schools, safety and public health, while raising costs for local governments, according to a study released on Thursday.

The Brookings Institution, an independent research group, found the populations of extreme poverty neighbourhoods grew by one-third over the last 10 years.

At least 40% of the individuals in extreme poverty areas live below the federal poverty line, defined as an annual income of $22 314 for a family of four.

Altogether, the Midwest "led other regions for growth in pockets of extreme poverty".

"Rather than spread evenly, the poor tend to cluster and concentrate in certain neighbourhoods or groups of neighbourhoods within a community," Brookings said. "Very poor neighbourhoods face a whole host of challenges that come from concentrated disadvantage - from higher crime rates and poorer health outcomes to lower educational opportunities and weaker job networks."

Brookings also found towns in the South, including Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had some of the largest increases in concentrated poverty rates since 2000.

"The recession-induced rise in poverty in the late 2000s likely further increased the concentration of poor individuals into neighbourhoods of extreme poverty," Brookings said in its report, which relied on 2000 US Census data and the American Community Surveys the Census conducted from 2005 to 2009.

Deep in the heart of Texas

McAllen, Texas, has the highest concentration of poverty in the country, according to Brookings. Another Texas city, El Paso, follows and then comes Memphis, Tennessee.

More than a third of McAllen's residents can be considered poor. In the tracts deemed to be extreme poverty, nearly half of the people are poor.

El Paso also had the second-largest growth in concentration of poverty, after Toledo, Ohio, according to Brookings.

"You can think of this in two ways: One is how deeply poor someone is and the other is how persistently poor the community is," said Steve Suits, vice president of the Southern Education Foundation, noting that since the end of the Civil War, poverty has become increasingly concentrated in the South.

In studying the effects of extreme poverty on education, the foundation found that in 2009, nearly 6.5 million children lived in households with incomes below 50% of the poverty threshold. The South accounted for nearly half of the nation's increase in extreme poverty, it found.

"In 2009, people in extreme poverty was the fastest- growing income group in America," Suits said. "Most households in this economy are in jeopardy of falling into poverty or extreme poverty."

The US Census recently reported the ranks of the poor rose in almost all states and cities in 2010.

About 40% of the poor live outside major cities, Brookings said, showing poverty is rolling into the suburbs.

"While large metro areas experienced the largest absolute increases in extreme poverty neighborhoods and concentrated poverty, small metropolitan areas were home to the fastest growth in extreme poverty tracts and the number of residents living in them," Brookings found.

Changing face of poverty

In the same way, the face of poverty shifted slightly.

Although African Americans remained the single-largest group in the extreme poverty neighborhoods, Brookings said that the rest of the population in these areas was more likely to be white and less likely to be Latino than in 2000, Brookings said.

"Having people with no abilities to survive except their own day-to-day ingenuity means there's going to be more crime, more unrest, more mischief, and more sorrow and grief," Suits said. "That's not the kind of community anyone would want to live in."

State and local government revenue fell 22.1% in 2009 from 2008, while spending rose nearly 5%, the Census said on Monday. Education and public welfare made up 43.2% of that spending.

"The hard thing is that cities are really strapped for cash right now," said Heidi Goldberg, program director for early childhood and family economic success at the National League of Cities.

"City budgets are tight - right as families are struggling."

Read more on:    us

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Who won? Let the News24 App notify you!

Not only can you stay up to date with the latest elections news, you can also get notification of results during the results phase with our easy-to-use app.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Somerset West - 15:38 PM
    Road name: N2 Outbound
    DELAYS through Somerset West (weekend holiday volumes)
  • Thursday Newlands - 15:36 PM
    Road name: M3 Outbound
    DELAYS between Woolsack Drive and Wynberg Hill
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Canon EOS 600D

The Canon EOS 600D Digital Camera puts the widely respected...

From R5389.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be required to travel or get information for your job. This may be restricting in some way or something may slow things...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.