One in four U.S. residents live in "poverty areas," according to American Community Survey data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau from 2008 to 2012, up from less than one in five in 2000. These areas of concentrated poverty refer to any census tract with a poverty rate of 20 percent of more. The number of people living in poverty areas increased from 49.5 million (18.0 percent) in 2000 to 77.4 million (25.7 percent) in 2008-2012. The 2012 American Community Survey five-year estimates show a U.S. poverty rate of 14.9 percent.
While for most areas the percent of people living in poverty areas increased, some parts of the country moved in the opposite direction of the nation's 7.6 percentage points increase. In Louisiana (-3.6 percentage points), West Virginia (-2.3), Alaska (-0.4), Hawaii (-1.0) and the District of Columbia (-6.7), the proportion of people living in poverty areas declined over the period. On the other hand, Arkansas (15.7 percentage points), North Carolina (17.9), Oregon (16.0) and Tennessee (16.0) had among the largest percentage point increases in the proportion of people living in poverty areas.
By state, according to the 2008-2012 figures, the percentage of people living in a poverty area ranged from 6.8 percent in New Hampshire to 48.5 percent in Mississippi.
The report, Changes in Areas with Concentrated Poverty: 2000 to 2010, uses data from the 2000 Census and the American Community Survey to analyze changes in the spatial distribution and socio-economic characteristics of people living in such areas. More than half of people living in poverty lived in a poverty area, and about 30 percent of people living in poverty areas had incomes below the poverty level.
"Researchers have found that living in poor neighborhoods adds burdens to low-income families, such as poor housing conditions and fewer job opportunities," said the report's author, Alemayehu Bishaw of the Census Bureau's Poverty Statistics Branch. "Many federal and local government agencies use the Census Bureau's definition of poverty areas to provide much-needed resources to communities with a large concentration of people in poverty."