More Than 1 in 5 Americans Live in ‘Poverty Area’


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Americans who live in poverty tend to be clustered in certain neighborhoods rather than evenly distributed across geographic areas, according to new data from the Census Bureau.

An analysis of American Community Survey data from 2006 to 2010 revealed that 67 million people in the U.S. live in “poverty areas,” which are defined as areas where 20% or more of the population live in poverty. That totals 23% of the U.S. population. The prevalence of these areas varied among states: Mississippi had the highest level of concentrated poverty at 46%, while New Hampshire had the lowest level at 15%.

In 15 states, including the District of Columbia, more than one-quarter of the population resided in poverty areas.

The census says that measuring the concentration of poverty is important because research indicates that high poverty levels (40% or more) within neighborhoods result in higher crime rates, underperforming public schools, poor housing and health conditions and limited access to private services and job opportunities.

It appears that concentrated poverty in the U.S. in on the rise. An analysis of census data conducted by the Brookings Institution found that the nationwide rate rose to 10.5% at the end of 2009, up from 9.1% in 2000, with rates increasing rapidly in the Midwest.

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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