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The Number of Americans Living in High-Poverty Neighborhoods Is Still on the Rise

12.4 million people now live in economically devastated neighborhoods.

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Associated Press

An estimated 12.4 million Americans live in economically devastated neighborhoods, according to American Community Survey data collected from 2008 to 2012. That's an 11 percent jump from the previous survey, conducted from 2007 to 2011. Even more startling, it's a 72 percent increase in the population of high-poverty neighborhoods since the 2000 Census.

The ACS defines an "economically devastated neighborhood" as a census tract where at least 40 percent of its residents are at or below the federal poverty line. This most recent release is the first tract-level data collected entirely after the housing boom.

What does that look like in hard numbers? As the Century Foundation's Paul Jargowsky puts it, "just over 4,000 neighborhoods (5.6 percent of all U.S. census tracts) now exceed the 40 percent poverty threshold, up from 3,800 since the last ACS data was released in 2011." 

Charts courtesy The Century Foundation. Click to enlarge.

 

About 14 percent of poor Americans lived in high-poverty neighborhoods by the end of 2012. This shift disproportionately affects blacks, with 23.6 percent of poor African-Americans living in high-poverty neighborhoods compared to 16.4 percent of poor Hispanics and 7.1 of poor, non-Hispanic whites.

Thirty-six states saw an increase in the number of high-poverty census tracts inside their borders, as seen in this interactive map below, provided by The Century Foundation:

Studies continue to document the many ways that being poor negatively impacts health and well-being. This latest population shift suggests cities still haven't figured out how to increase social mobility and slow rising income inequality. 

Top image: Two young men walk through a neighborhood of vacant row houses in Baltimore, April 8, 2013 picture. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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