Poor Increasingly Cluster In Impoverished Areas

Nov 3, 2011
Originally published on November 3, 2011 7:19 pm
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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Fro him m NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The U.S. poverty rate was 15 percent last year, that's the highest in almost two decades. Now, a new study finds that the nation's poorer are increasingly concentrated in extremely poor neighborhoods.

As NPR's Pam Fessler reports, that presents additional challenges for anyone trying to pull themselves out of poverty.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: It's bad enough to be poor, but if most of your neighbors are poor, too, that can make life especially difficult.

ELIZABETH KNEEBONE: These kinds of neighborhoods tend to have poorer performing schools, higher crime rates; they are often fewer job networks and job opportunities within the neighborhood.

FESSLER: Elizabeth Kneebone is a senior research associate at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

KNEEBONE: So, not only are they struggling with their own poverty, people who live in these areas also have to struggle with all of the challenges of the poverty around them.

FESSLER: Which is a problem, because Kneebone and her colleagues have found that since 2000, a growing share of the poor live in extremely poor neighborhoods, where more than 40 percent of the residents fall below the official poverty line. The biggest growth in concentrated poverty has been in the suburbs; also in the South and the Midwest, where the recession has been especially devastating.

One way to reverse the trend, say researchers, is to connect low-income residents to jobs and schools outside their neighborhoods, with things such as public transportation and affordable housing.

Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.