One in Four Americans Now Live in “Poverty Areas,” including almost Half of Mississippians

Thursday, July 03, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Poverty has expanded so much in the United States that a quarter of the population now lives in areas stricken with financial struggle. In Mississippi, nearly half the residents live in such communities.


The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau paint a bleak picture for millions of Americans, based on data collected from 2008 to 2012, a period dominated by the Great Recession. 


Nationwide, one in four U.S. residents lived in “poverty areas.” That’s up from about 18% in 2000 (or 49.5 million Americans), according to the agency’s latest American Community Survey. Now the total has reached 77.4 million people. The bureau refers to any census tract with a poverty rate of 20% or more as a poverty area. 


Mississippi, consistently one of the nation’s poorest states, had by far the largest share of Americans living in poor areas at 48.5%. New Mexico was next at 43%. The state with the fewest residents in poverty areas was New Hampshire at 6.8%.


The Census Bureau also reported that several states experienced double-digit increases in the percentage of people residing in poverty areas. These included Arkansas (15.7%), North Carolina (17.9%), Oregon (16%) and Tennessee (16%).


Fourteen states and the District of Columbia had 30% or more of their populations living in poverty areas during 2008-2012, compared with only four states 14 years ago.

“Researchers have found that living in poor neighborhoods adds burdens to low-income families, such as poor housing conditions and fewer job opportunities,” Alemayehu Bishaw, author of the report and a member of the Census Bureau’s Poverty Statistics Branch, wrote.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Number of People Living in ‘Poverty Areas’ Up, Census Bureau Reports (U.S. Census Bureau)

Changes in Areas With Concentrated Poverty: 2000 to 2010 (by Alemayehu Bishaw, U.S. Census Bureau) (pdf)

2012 Poverty Rate Highest in 20 Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Extreme Poverty Neighborhoods Make a Comeback in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment