MEDIA RELEASE: Growth in concentrated poverty shows increasing economic, racial segregation, report shows

RALEIGH (April 12, 2018) – The concentrated poverty rate — the number of people in poverty living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods — has more than doubled since 2000, a new report finds, with disproportionate impacts in communities of color and, increasingly, rural areas.

Concentrated poverty describes neighborhoods where a high percentage of the residents live below the federal poverty line, according to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. In most cases these “extreme poverty neighborhoods” have a poverty rate of 40 percent or higher. These communities are often physically isolated from resources such as jobs, access to wealth, and quality education, and face environmental and geographical barriers like elevated levels of air pollution and inferior public services. Without intervention, many of these neighborhoods face cyclical patterns of neglect, both historically and into the present.

“Concentrated poverty did not happen naturally but was created out of policy choices,” said Brian Kennedy II, Public Policy Fellow with the Budget & Tax Center and author of the report. “State-supported discriminatory housing markets, poorly executed public housing projects, interstate and highway projects made possible through eminent domain laws, a lack of investment in public services — all of these have reinforced barriers.”

The number of concentrated poverty neighborhoods and number of North Carolinians living in those neighborhoods has more than tripled since 2000. In that year 84,493 people lived in 37 neighborhoods with a poverty rate of 40 percent or higher compared to 348,000 individuals living in 109 such neighborhoods in 2016. Certain groups have been disproportionately affected by this trend of growing poverty and economic segregation.

  • From 2012 to 2016, African American North Carolinians were 71 and 434 percent more likely than Latinx and white North Carolinians, respectively, to live in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods.
  • Even when income is not a factor, Black and brown North Carolinians are more likely to live in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. Between 2012 and 2016, 5.8 percent of poor white North Carolinians lived in concentrated poverty neighborhoods compared to 16.6 and 8.9 percent of poor African Americans and Latinx, respectively.
  • While African American North Carolinians are more likely to live in concentrated poverty, since 2000 the number of Latinx and whites living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods has increased by more than 900 and 400 percent, respectively.
  • Concentrated poverty is affecting an increasing number of rural areas. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of concentrated poverty neighborhoods in rural counties grew from 13 to 45. As gentrification renders cities unaffordable and a lack of public transportation makes it difficult to access job opportunities, more rural communities are experiencing high rates of poverty.

Policy choices created high levels of concentrated poverty in North Carolina and policy choices can help alleviate it, the report said. Raising the minimum wage and ensuring workers earn a living wage is one of the first steps in reducing concentrated poverty, as well as erasing physical barriers to opportunity by improving transportation networks and locating services in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty.

“Leaders must recognize the historic and continuous role of policy in driving inequalities,” Kennedy said. “That means advancing racial equity through decision-making that builds connections to opportunity for people and places.”

Read the full report at this link.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Kennedy II, Public Policy Fellow, at (919) 856-2153 or briank@ncjustice.org; Julia Hawes, Director of Communications, at (919) 863-2406.

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