What is concentrated poverty?

Concentrated Poverty

Poverty is “concentrated” in a neighborhood when a large share of residents in a neighborhood do not have incomes that are sufficient to satisfy basic needs. The most common threshold, set by the Census Bureau in the 1970s, classifies an area as “concentrated poverty” when 40 percent or more of the population lives at or below the federal poverty level.[1] More recently, some researchers have avoided classifying neighborhoods, instead focusing on the share of all impoverished persons in an area that live in high-poverty communities.[2]

We know, however, that a simple statistical measure cannot tell the whole story. A growing body of empirical research demonstrates the long-term, negative impacts that high-poverty neighborhoods have on their residents. Areas of concentrated poverty generally have lower-performing schools, fewer job opportunities, inadequate housing, scare amenities, and poor infrastructure. For persons with already limited financial means, these environmental burdens make it nearly impossible to achieve economic stability. Concentrated poverty, without meaningful intervention can doubly disadvantage households. .


[1] Paul A. Jargowsky, “Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium: Changes in Prevalence, Composition, and Location of High Poverty Neighborhoods,” The Century Foundation and Rutgers Center for Urban Research and Education, 2013.

[2] Paul A. Jargowsky, “Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City,” Russell Sage Foundation, 1997.