Panel Paper: Concentrated Poverty in the New Millenium

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 8:20 AM
Thomas Salon (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Paul Jargowsky, Rugters University, Camden; Center for Urban Research and Education
The problems of poverty are exacerbated when poor people live in dysfunctional high-poverty neighborhoods, where they are exposed to high levels of crime and violence and have limited access to educational and economic opportunities (Wilson 1987, 1996).  Growing up in such neighborhoods can affect children’s health and educational achievement (Ludwig et al. 2011; Jargowsky and El Komi 2010; Burdick-Will et al. 2011).   This paper combines data from several sources to document the recent trends in concentrated poverty and the implications of those trends for social and housing policy.  Given the strong economy of the 1990s and changes in housing policy, the concentration of poverty declined by more than one third, after decades of increases (Jargowsky 2003; Kingsley and Pettit 2003).  Since 2000, however, the spatial concentration of poverty has surged again, particularly since the housing crisis and recession began in 2008.  In particular, concentrated poverty has returned to and surpassed the peak levels of 1990, but with important differences in the distribution, location, and composition of high-poverty neighborhoods, proxied by census tracts with poverty rates of 40 percent or more.  For example, concentration of poverty has grown fastest among non-Hispanic whites.  High-poverty neighborhoods are substantially less likely to be composed of a single racial or ethnic group.   No longer confined to the central cities of major metropolitan areas, concentrations of poverty have increased faster in smaller metropolitan areas.  Another change is that high-poverty census tracts are no longer found in one or two contiguous clusters, but are more widely scattered around metropolitan areas, including inner-ring suburban areas.  Concentration of poverty, therefore, remains an important social problem that is now affecting more groups in more diverse locations in the metropolitan landscape.