A Quarter of Americans Live in ‘Poverty Areas’

Washington — A fourth of all Americans live in what the Census Bureau calls “poverty areas,” neighborhoods where at least 1 in 5 have incomes below the poverty level, according to a new report.

The share of people living in these poverty areas fell during the 1990s but grew substantially over the first decade of the 2000s. As of 2010, it is up to 25.7 percent, from 18.1 percent in 2000. And while not all people living in such areas are poor, they find themselves in areas riddled with problems.

“Problems associated with living in poverty areas, such as, higher crime rates, poor housing conditions, and fewer job opportunities are exacerbated when poor families live clustered in high-poverty neighborhoods,” the report said.

Some government assistance programs allocate more resources to poverty areas based on the Census Bureau’s definition.

In 14 states, at least 30 percent of residents are living in poverty areas.

In Mississippi, nearly half the population — 48.5 percent — lives in a poverty area. The same is true for at least 1-in-3 residents in 11 other states. The rate is lowest in New Hampshire, where 6.8 percent of residents live in poverty areas.

The share of people living in poverty areas grew in all but a few states.

Four states — Louisiana, West Virginia, Hawaii and Alaska — saw the rate of residents living in poverty areas decline over the first decade of the 2000s.

Growth for those living in poverty areas was varied in states as well.

North Carolina saw the biggest expansion, with 31.8 percent living in poverty areas in 2010, up from 14 percent in 2000.