Prosperity Watch Issue 40, No. 3: North Carolina Tops the List for Metro Areas with Largest Growth in Concentrations of Poverty

Recent research released by the Brookings Institution points to a trend across the country: the growing concentration of poverty in high-poverty, economically distressed neighborhoods, just as the number of poor people grew over the 2000s. The result is a double burden where the disadvantage of being poor is magnified by residing in a poor neighborhood, deepening hardship and creating greater barriers for movement out of poverty.

Between 2008-2012, the concentrated poverty rate—or share of poor residents living in distressed tracts—in the United States had reached 12.2 percent, up from 9.1 percent in 2000. The growth in suburban areas of concentrated poverty was also significant: surburbs were home to nearly as many high poverty tracts as cities (4,313 versus 5,353), and almost half (46 percent) of all metro area poor residents living in high-poverty tracts lived in suburbs.

North Carolina’s metro areas, according to the research, experienced some of the largest increases in the growth of its poor population and in the concentration of poor people in poor neighborhoods. Charlotte experienced a 97 percent increase in its poor population from 2000 and 2008-2012; Raleigh saw a 97 percent increase; Winston-Salem saw a 82 percent increase; and Greensboro-High Point saw a 77 percent increase. These growth rates put North Carolina in four of the top 15 of the country’s 100 largest metros with increases in the population living in poverty.

North Carolina metro areas also ranked high in the change in the poor population living in census tracts where more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty—designated concentrated poverty neighborhoods. Charlotte saw growth of more than 1021 percent; Raleigh had growth of 542 percent; Greensboro-High Point had growth of 529 percent; and Winston-Salem had growth of 84 percent. The suburbs of Winston-Salem, Greensboro-High Point and Charlotte also saw growth.

The growing number of North Carolinians living in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods means that more metro residents face restricted access to the jobs, education, and networks that can improve their financial standing. Patterns of concentrated poverty have endured for decades in certain areas due to several interacting factors such as rapid suburbanization, deindustrialization, commercial disinvestment, and racial discrimination in housing markets. It is well-documented that patterns of concentrated poverty are also rooted in government policies—including home-ownership subsidies, public-housing location decisions, interstate and highway subsidies, and deterioration in the provision of local services.

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