Wednesday, 12 August 2015 19:29

The Problem of Concentrated Poverty

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Dr. Michael Omidi discusses recent findings that define the most concentrated areas of poverty in the U.S.

A 2014 City Observatory analysis by Joe Cortright examines census data over the past several decades in impoverished areas. Findings suggest that as of 2010, 750 urban areas still had a poverty rate twice the national average—out of 1,100 urban census tracts designated as “high poverty” in 1970. These areas are areas in which poverty is concentrated, and apparently has been since the latter half of the previous century. Concentrated poverty areas are neighborhoods in which 40 percent or more of residents fall below the federal poverty threshold.

A recent Century Foundation study also utilized census data as well as the American Community Survey to examine the changes in these areas of concentrated poverty from 1990 to 2013. They found that during this time, the amount of people living in these areas actually doubled—from 7.2 million to 13.8 million.

These findings suggest that environment is extremely influential to one’s likelihood of attaining personal success. Simply put, those in poor neighborhoods will find it much more difficult to get ahead—and vice versa. Cortright says, “It has become commonplace to observe that a person’s life chances can be statistically explained by their ZIP code.” And this observation doesn’t just apply to urban areas; concentrated poverty has been slowly spreading to the suburbs over the past decade.

Paul Jagrowski, author of the Century Foundation study, suggest two methods which he believes will most effectively reverse the growing poverty rates: 1) for the government to “implement controls over suburban development that can ensure that new housing construction is in line with the growth of a metro population,” and 2) that these controls will ensure that houses are being constructed in direct proportion to the population growth.

Yours in health,

Dr. Michael Omidi

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