Report: America's poor at historic high


Downtown Detroit. The Midwest, including the Motor City, has seen the largest increase of concentrated poverty, according to a report from the Brookings Institute


Spencer Platt

The country’s poor population are at historic highs across the US, a new report found.

The nation’s poor grew from 12.3 million in the 1990s to 46.2 million in the past 10 years with the population in extreme-poverty neighborhoods rose by 33 percent over the past decade, according to the report from the Brookings Institute, an independent research group. The report analyzed Census Bureau income data from 2000 to 2009.

Extreme poverty is defined as neighborhoods where at least 40 percent of the population live below the federal poverty line–$22,300 for a family of four as of 2010. Nearly 10 percent of America’s poor are estimated to live in extreme poverty.

“This poses a whole host of problems for people living in the midst of very poor neighborhoods from low performing public schools to the lack of job opportunities, access to basic services like retail, higher levels of crime,” Brookings Institute senior fellow Alan Berube said.

The growth in concentrated poverty were highest in the Midwest metro areas of Detroit, Toledo and Youngstown.

Concentrated poverty rates have historically been much higher in metropolitan areas, but the number of people living in poor neighborhoods have increasingly been in the suburbs, Berube said.

Extreme-poverty neighborhoods grew more than twice as fast in the suburbs than in major cities in the past ten years, the report said. Black residents up the largest share of the population in neighborhoods across the board at 45 percent.

The measure of concentrated poverty came into broad public use in the 1960’s when civil unrest, loss of blue-collar jobs and suburban flight left swaths of American cities stranded in extreme poverty, The New York Times reported.

Visit their website for interactive maps of where concentrated-poverty is growing in the US.