Concentrated Poverty


Concentrated Poverty

Turning the Improbable

Into the Exceptional!

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The Advocacy Foundation, Inc.

Helping Individuals, Organizations & Communities

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The Transformative Justice Project

Eradicating Juvenile Delinquency Requires a Multi-Disciplinary Approach

The way we accomplish all this is a follows:

The Juvenile Justice system is incredibly overloaded, and

Solutions-Based programs are woefully underfunded. Our

precious children, therefore, particularly young people of

color, often get the “swift” version of justice whenever they

come into contact with the law.

Decisions to build prison facilities are often based on

elementary school test results, and our country incarcerates

more of its young than any other nation on earth. So we at

The Foundation labor to pull our young people out of the

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of the legal, psychological, governmental and educational

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transforming whole communities, and we labor to change

their thinking about the causes of delinquency with the goal

of helping them embrace the idea of restoration for the young

people in our care who demonstrate repentance for their


1. We vigorously advocate for charges reductions, wherever possible, in the adjudicatory (court)

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3. While those projects are operating, we conduct a wide variety of ComeUnity-ReEngineering

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issues to Police friendly contacts, to CBO and FBO accountability and compliance;

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5 Throughout the process we conduct a continuum of events and fundraisers designed to facilitate

collaboration among professionals and community stakeholders; and finally

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6. 1 We disseminate Quarterly publications, like our e-Advocate series Newsletter and our e-Advocate

Quarterly electronic Magazine to all regular donors in order to facilitate a lifelong learning process

on the ever-evolving developments in the Justice system.

And in addition to the help we provide for our young clients and their families, we also facilitate

Community Engagement through the Restorative Justice process, thereby balancing the interesrs

of local businesses, schools, clergy, elected officials, police, and all interested stakeholders. Through

these efforts, relationships are rebuilt & strengthened, local businesses and communities are enhanced &

protected from victimization, young careers are developed, and our precious young people are kept out

of the prison pipeline.

This is a massive undertaking, and we need all the help and financial support you can give! We plan to

help 75 young persons per quarter-year (aggregating to a total of 250 per year) in each jurisdiction we

serve) at an average cost of under $2,500 per client, per year.*

Thank you in advance for your support!

* FYI:

1. The national average cost to taxpayers for minimum-security youth incarceration, is around

$43,000.00 per child, per year.

2. The average annual cost to taxpayers for maximun-security youth incarceration is well over

$148,000.00 per child, per year.

- (US News and World Report, December 9, 2014);

3. In every jurisdiction in the nation, the Plea Bargain rate is above 99%.

The Judicial system engages in a tri-partite balancing task in every single one of these matters, seeking

to balance Rehabilitative Justice with Community Protection and Judicial Economy, and, although

the practitioners work very hard to achieve positive outcomes, the scales are nowhere near balanced

where people of color are involved.

We must reverse this trend, which is right now working very much against the best interests of our young.

Our young people do not belong behind bars.

- Jack Johnson


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The Advocacy Foundation, Inc.

Helping Individuals, Organizations & Communities

Achieve Their Full Potential

…a collection of works on



“Turning the Improbable Into the Exceptional”




John C Johnson III

Founder & CEO

(878) 222-0450

Voice | Data | SMS


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Biblical Authority


Deuteronomy 15:7-8 (NIV)


If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the

land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or

tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them

whatever they need.

Psalm 113:7


He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;

Psalm 140:12


I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

Isaiah 25:4


You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter

from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm

driving against a wall

Leviticus 19:10


Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have

fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lordyour God.

Proverbs 29:7


The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Proverbs 31:8-9


Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are

destitute. 9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Luke 4:18


“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good

news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of

sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

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Table of Contents

…a compilation of works on

Concentrated Poverty

Biblical Authority

I. Introduction: Concentrated Poverty………………………………. 15

II. The Cycle and Culture of Poverty…………………………………. 33

III. The War On Poverty……………………………………………….. 45

IV. Welfare and Its Effects On Poverty………………………………. 53

V. Social Programs in The U.S.……………………………………… 73

VI. U.S. Cities with The Highest Poverty Rates…………………….. 89

VII. The Hope VI Urban Housing Initiative……………….................. 95

VIII. References……………………………………………………......... 101



A. Basic Facts on Concentrated Poverty

B. Concentration of Poverty in The New Millennium

C. Concentrated Poverty: A Change in Course

Copyright © 2018 The Advocacy Foundation, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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I. Introduction

Concentrated Poverty

Concentrated Poverty refers to

a spatial density of socio-economic

deprivation. In the US, it is commonly

used in fields of policy and scholarship

in reference to areas of "extreme" or

"high-poverty" defined by the US census

as areas with "40 percent of the tract

population living below the federal


The Invention of the Measure

poverty threshold." A large body of

literature argues that these areas of

concentrated poverty place additional

burdens on poor families that live within

them, beyond what the families' own

individual circumstances would dictate.

The research also indicates that areas

of concentrated poverty can have wider

effects on surrounding neighborhoods

that are not classified as "high-poverty,"

thus limiting overall economic

potential and social cohesion.

There have long been areas of

concentrated poverty, and the distinct

social problems of concentrated poverty,

which exacerbate individual impoverishment

have been the grounds of reform

movements and studies since the mid-

19th Century. However, the measure of

concentrated poverty and the

coalescence around an analytical

conception of concentrated poverty

occurred only in the 1970s. This more

recent focus on concentrated poverty

grew largely out of concern about the

nation’s inner cities in the wake of

ongoing deindustrialization, civil unrest

in the late 1960s, and the rapid

suburbanization and out-migration that

followed. In most cases, these

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poor inner city locations were populated

predominantly by minorities, and many

featured large public housing


The definition for "low-income areas"

first developed by the Bureau of the

Census as part of its work for the newly

established Office of Economic

Opportunity, a new bureaucracy

designed to administer most of the War

on Poverty Programs created as a part

of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great

Society legislative agenda. The goal

was to identify areas of major

concentrations of poverty within large

metropolitan areas. The original

definition was formed through an

attribute-based criterion. Each census

tract was ranked by an equally weighted

measurement of (1) an area's income,

(2) level of education, (3) number of

single-parent households, (4)

percentage of low-skilled workers, and

(5) quality of the housing stock. The

lowest quartile from the rankings were

then designated "low income." The 1970

census took the earlier attribute-based

measure and translated it into a purely

statistical one - defining "low-income

areas" as census tracts with 20%-39%

of its inhabitants falling below the

poverty line and designating areas of

"high-poverty" or “extreme poverty” as

those with 40% or more of its

inhabitants falling under the poverty line.

The 20% threshold adopted in 1970 was

derived by calibrating a statistic of

household income that most closely

approximated the 1960 lower quartile.

The 40% threshold to designate "highpoverty

areas" was set by doubling the

low-income threshold. This 40%

threshold became the common

definition of "concentrated poverty" in

policy and scholarly research.

Another measure of concentrated

poverty used for larger geographical

areas was later developed by Paul

Jargowsky. His rate expresses the

proportion of all poor individuals in a

certain area (e.g., city, metropolitan

region, or county) who live in census

tracts of high poverty. Later, Jargowsky

uses the concept of concentrated

poverty to refer more specifically to the

"proportion of the poor in some region

city or region that resides in highpoverty

neighborhoods" as opposed to a

territorial designation of high-poverty


The Invention of the Concept

The first major work of scholarship to

utilize the census measure to study the

changing spatial trends of poverty, as

well as its causes and effects,

was William Julius Wilson in his

book The Truly Disadvantaged: The

Inner City, The Underclass, and Public

Policy. His findings revealed that tracts

of concentrated poverty increased

dramatically, not only in Chicago, but

throughout metropolitan areas of the

United States during the 1970s, as did

the population of poor people residing

within them. These trends related

specifically to an African American

"underclass" in America's inner city (see

trends below). In this work, Wilson

utilizes concentrated poverty as

an analytic measure to gauge the

changing spatial organization and

intensification of poverty, as a territorial

category to designate an object of

analysis, and also as a causal factor in

and of itself, effecting life chances

among the poor. All three of these

conceptualizations have since served as

the basis for a wide range of social

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science research as well as policy

interventions and prescriptions.

that fit this qualification in a given city,

region, or country.

Analytic Measure

Wilson's study set the precedent of

using the census' 40% threshold and

this has been adopted as the standard

measure to study trends of poverty and

poor neighborhoods.

This is largely due to the measure's

convenience rather than any strong

conceptual justification. The measure is

used to compare degree of poverty

concentration between areas and the

growth or decline in the number of tracts

Critiques of the measure have been

leveled against both the federal

definition of poverty as well as the

census definition of concentrated

poverty by the 40% threshold. In both

cases, the overall discussion has

questioned the use of a bureaucratic

category designed to facilitate the

routine collection of statistics and the

determination of eligibility of public

assistance, geared to managerial

concerns of the state as being unfit for

capturing urban social structures and

strategies. Criticisms of the poverty

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threshold are legion, the most salient

being the inability to fully consider the

needs of different family types (e.g.: the

need for childcare services, health

insurance, etc.), the non-cash benefits

from public sources, the cash and noncash

resources or lack thereof from

social and familial networks, and the

consideration of regional variations in

cost of living expenses.

At the same time, the 40 percent

benchmark used by the census and

scholars to define concentrated poverty

does not refer to any adequately

specified objective or subjective criteria.

Jargowsky and Bane (1991) assert

“...that the 40 percent criterion came

very close to identifying areas that

looked like ghettos in terms of their

housing conditions” (p. 239). They

contend that “the areas selected by the

40 percent criterion corresponded

closely with the neighborhoods that city

officials and local Census Bureau

officials considered ghettos” (p. 239).

Thus, these scholars argued that

although “any fixed cutoff is inherently

arbitrary...the 40 percent criterion

appropriately identifies most ghetto

neighborhoods” (p. 239). Here we see

that the use of the threshold is justified

on the basis of a general personal

impressions and impressions of city

officials rather than any rigorous

objective criteria.

Aside from the contention over the

selection of a particular percentage

threshold as an accurate descriptive

measure (i.e. 30% vs. 60% threshold of

residents in poverty), other scholars

have criticized the use of an absolute

indicator of poverty concentration as an

analytic measure and tool to track

trends. For instance, Massey and

Eggers contend that a relative indicator

based on segregation is more rigorous

and meaningful, claiming that ". . .levels

and trends in poverty concentration are

best studied with well-established

measures of segregation that use

complete information on the spatial

distribution of income instead of an ad

hoc and arbitrary definition of 'poverty

neighborhoods' and 'poverty


Jennifer Wolch and Nathan Sessoms

have challenged the utility of the

traditional concept of concentrated

poverty based on the 40% threshold due

to the recent growth of working poor

populations and the emergence of innersuburban

poverty. Their study shows

that several areas in Southern

California, which meet the 40%

threshold do not demonstrate the

characteristics traditionally associated

with areas of concentrated poverty and

not suffer from extreme levels of

dysfunction, crime, and blight, but are

often reasonably clean, safe, wellmaintained

and home to several

commercial/retail establishments, public

facilities, etc. They also argue that the

term has become conflated with "areas

of social problems" and argue that the

concept should be unhooked from

behavioral definitions and stigma.

Territorial Category

As a territorial category, areas of

concentrated poverty have become both

key targets of place specific policy

interventions as well as the object of

analysis for comparative studies in

policy research and the social sciences.

Several critiques have been raised

against this territorial category of

Page 18 of 134

"concentrated poverty." First, is the

question of whether census tracts are a

good spatial category of social scientific

analysis. A Systematic field

observations in various inner-city areas

reveals that census tracts are poor

proxies of what residents construe and

construct as neighborhoods in their daily


Sociologist Loic Wacquant has criticized

the measure when used to denote or

define “ghettos". This reference was first

product of policy-geared research fearful

of the "strict taboo that weighs on

segregation in the political

sphere". Massey and Denton similarly

questions the use of a purely income

based measure to define these areas of

deprivation, who shows with strong

empirical evidence and solid theorizing

that high levels of racial segregation

(defined by an index of

dissimilarity above 60) produce

distinct socio-economic constellations

and processes. Wacquant also

made by Bane and Jargowsky and

William Julius Wilson (see above), and

scholars increasingly conflate the two,

which Wacquant claims camouflages

the constitutive role of ethnoracial

domination in the ghetto and

hyperghetto. Wacquant claims that this

income-based notion of the ghetto is

"ostensibly deracialized" and largely a

questions why it is that rural counties

and suburban tracts are often left out of

social science analysis of concentrated


Causal Factor

As explored more fully in the section on

effects, concentrated poverty has

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increasingly been recognized as a

"causal factor" in compounding the

effects of poverty by isolating residents

in these neighborhoods from networks

and resources useful to realize human

potential. In The Truly Disadvantaged,

William Julius Wilson coined these

processes as "concentration effects."

The primary effect is what he termed

social isolation, defined as the lack of

contact or of sustained interaction with

individuals and institutions that

represent mainstream society. This

isolation makes it much more difficult for

those who are looking for jobs to be tied

into the job network and also generates

behavior not conducive to good work

histories. What is key in Wilson's idea of

social isolation is that he links the

behavioral outcomes of the ghetto poor

to the structural constraints of the job

market and historical discrimination.

This goes against the theory of a

"culture of poverty," which implies that

basic values and attitudes of the ghetto

subculture have been internalized and

places a strong emphasis on the

autonomous character of the cultural

traits once they come into existence.

A number of scholars have

problematized this causal framing. For

Wilson, concentrated poverty was a link

between structural factors and social

behaviors produced through

"concentration effects", however, much

subsequent policy and scholarly

research have ignored these deeper

causes of concentrated poverty itself.

According to Agnew, "One can start out

using spatial concepts as shorthand for

complex sociological processes but slip

easily into substituting the spatial

concepts for the more complex

argument. Steinberg has claimed that

this amounts to misdiagnosing the

symptom as the disease, as the

structural factors are severed from the

spatial outcome, policy prescriptions to

address concentrated poverty have

shifted from economic policies to

encourage full-employment to simply

deconcentrating poverty (see section

below). As Goetz observed, “Over time,

focus has shifted away from the causes

of concentrated poverty toward the

behavior of the poor in response to

concentrated poverty," which ultimately

has led to reproducing the "culture of

poverty" thesis in severing the theory

from its structural roots.


This changing spatial distribution of

poverty has been attributed to a number

of structural factors, primarily in the

economic sphere, and occurring since

the 1970s. (From William Julius

Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The

Inner City, The Underclass, and Public



Discrimination and Segregatio

n: Blacks were discriminated

against far more severely in the

early twentieth century than were

the new white immigrants.

Through restrictive covenants,

municipal policies, and federal

housing programs, blacks, unlike

other immigrant groups, were

forced into particular areas inner

cities. At the same time blacks

were discriminated far more

severely than other groups in the

labor market making them

disproportionately poor and

concentrated in low-paying jobs,

particularly in the industrial

sector. Collectively these forms of

Page 20 of 134

acial and spatial discrimination

laid the basis for most areas of

contemporary concentrated


vulnerable to the structural

economic changes in the past

two decades because of

economic cutbacks, plant

Deindustrialization: As

mentioned above, because

blacks were concentrated in the

low-wage sector of the economy

due to discrimination and

prejudice, they are more

adversely affected by impersonal

economic shifts in advanced

industrial society. Their heavy

concentration in the automobile,

rubber, steel, and other

smokestack industries meant that

they were particularly hit hard by

deindustrialization occurring in

US cities from the 70s onward. In

other words, minorities,

particularly poor and workingclass

minorities, are not only

adversely affected by periodic

recessions, they are also

closings, and relocation of firms

to cheaper labor sites in the


Increasing Gap between

Skilled and Unskilled Workers:

Many of the new jobs that

emerged in the post-1970s

economy have been

disproportionately in the service

and knowledge sectors. These

sectors are marked by large

inequalities in wages, and has

lowered the average income of

households compared to those

that had held better paying

industrial jobs in the past

(see Working Poor)

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Spatial Mismatch: With the

expansion of the suburbs,

economic growth shifted from the

inner cities to the suburbs. The

inner city poor were largely cut off

from taking advantage of these

new opportunities due to their

spatial distance.

White Flight: A large scale

migration of wealthier whites from

the inner city occurred with the

construction of the federal

highway system and expansion

of federal mortgage programs.

These patterns were also driven

by increased fears and anxieties

of minority populations. This

increased the proportion of both

poor and black people in urban

populations while eroding

municipal tax bases, leading

toward a downward spiral in the

provision of public services as

well as job opportunities and

economic development.

Flight of the Black Middle

Class: As the civil rights

movement ended racial

restrictions on federal housing

loans and programs, and opened

up limited opportunities for black

mobility, many of the better-off

blacks in inner cities moved to

mixed neighborhoods or satellite

suburbs. This increased the

proportion of poor within the

ghetto and also weakened civic

institutions and investment in the

local economy.

Changes in the Age Structure:

In the years concentrated poverty

was increasing so was the

proportion of African American

youth in central cities. The

number of central-city blacks

aged fourteen to twenty-four rose

by 78% from 1960–1970,

compared with an increase of

only 23% for whites of the same

age.This younger demographic

balance in minority

neighborhoods contributes to

rises in crime, out-of-wedlock

birth, unemployment, and other

factors associated with poverty.

Changes in Family Structure: In

1965, 25% of all black families

were headed by women. The

proportion surpassed 28% in

1970, reached 40 percent by

1979, registered at 43% in 1984,

and 72% by 2010. Because

poverty is measured at the

household level, rather than the

individual, such demographic

changes inevitably increase the

poverty rate. Furthermore,

several studies have shown that

women, particularly, singlemothers

are disproportionately

poor to a number of factors

(see Feminization of Poverty)


Several recent studies have pointed to

the role of "neighborhood effects"

caused by concentrated poverty. These

studies have illustrated that crime and

delinquency, education, psychological

distress, and various health problems,

among many other issues, are affected

by neighborhood characteristics,

particularly the concentration of poverty.

Thresholds, or tipping points, also prove

important. In a recent review of

research, Galster notes that studies

suggest “that the independent impacts

Page 22 of 134

of neighborhood poverty rates in

encouraging negative outcomes for

individuals like crime, school leaving,

and duration of poverty spells appear to

be nil unless the neighborhood exceeds

about 20 percent poverty, whereupon

the externality effects grow rapidly until

the neighborhood reaches

approximately 40 percent poverty;

subsequent increases in the poverty

completed by the Pew Economic

Mobility Project which tracked 5,000

families since 1968 and found that no

other factor, including parents'

education, employment, or marital

status, was as important as

neighborhood poverty in explaining why

African-American children were so much

more likely to have lower incomes than

their parents as adults. Thus, the

population appear to have no marginal

effect.” Housing values and rents show

a similar pattern. Using data from the

100 largest U.S. metro areas from 1990

to 2000, Galster et al. find little

relationship between neighborhood

poverty rates and decline in

neighborhood housing values and rents

until poverty exceeds 10 percent, at

which point values decline rapidly before

becoming shallower at very high poverty


One of the largest studies examining the

effects of concentrated poverty was

concentrated poverty rate aims to

capture the extent of a possible “double

burden” imposed on poor families living

in extremely poor communities; both

being poor and living in a poor

community. The study also found

negative effects on the better-off

children raised in such areas, as well.

While initial research failed to isolate the

direct effects of "concentrated poverty"

in and of itself, more recent work has

shifted to identifying the mechanisms

that matter. Rather than focusing solely

on the socio-economic characteristics of

neighborhoods, this scholarship to

Page 23 of 134

examining the social-interactive and

institutional aspects produced through

concentrated poverty. Below is an

overview of these effects and


Mechanisms of

Concentrated Poverty Effects

(From George C. Galster, "The

Mechanism(s) of Neighborhood Effects:

Theory, Evidence, and Policy


information and resources of

various kinds transmitted through

neighbors. These networks can

involve either “strong ties” and/or

“weak ties.”

Social cohesion and control: The

degree of neighborhood social

disorder and its converse,

“collective efficacy" may influence

a variety of behaviors and

psychological reactions of


Social Interactive Effects

This set of mechanisms refers to social

processes endogenous to


These processes include:

Social Contagion: Behaviors,

aspirations, and attitudes may be

changed by contact with peers

who are neighbors. Under certain

conditions these changes can

take on contagion dynamics that

are akin to “epidemics.”

Collective Socialization:

Individuals may be encouraged to

conform to local social norms

conveyed by neighborhood role

models and other social

pressures. This socialization

effect is characterized by a

minimum threshold or critical

mass being achieved before a

norm can produce noticeable

consequences for others in the


Social Networks: Individuals

may be influenced by the

interpersonal communication of

Relative Deprivation: This

mechanism suggests that

residents who have achieved

some socioeconomic success will

be a source of disamenities for

their less-well off neighbors. The

latter, it is argued, will view the

successful with envy and/or will

make them perceive their own

relative inferiority as a source of


Parental Mediation: The

neighborhood may affect

(through any of the mechanisms

listed under all categories here)

parents’ physical and mental

health, stress, coping skills,

sense of efficacy, behaviors, and

material resources. All of these,

in turn, may affect the home

environment in which children are


Environmental Effects

Environmental mechanisms refer to

natural and human-made attributes of

the local space that may affect directly

the mental and/or physical health of

residents without affecting their

behaviors. As in the case of social-

Page 24 of 134

interactive mechanism, the

environmental category can also

assume distinct forms:

Exposure to Violence: If people

sense that their property or

person is in danger they may

suffer psychological and physical

responses that may impair their

functioning or sensed well-being.

These consequences are likely to

be even more pronounced if the

person has been victimized.

Page 25 of 134

Physical Surroundings:

Decayed physical conditions of

the built environment (e.g.,

deteriorated structures and public

infrastructure, litter, graffiti) may

impart psychological effects on


Geographical Effects

Geographic mechanisms refer to

aspects of spaces that may affect

residents’ life courses yet do not arise

within the neighborhood but rather

purely because of the neighborhood’s

location relative to larger-scale political

and economic forces such as:

Spatial Mismatch: Certain

neighborhoods may have little

accessibility (in either spatial

proximity or as mediated by

transportation networks) to job

opportunities appropriate to the

skills of their residents, thereby

restricting their employment


Public Services: Some

neighborhoods may be located

within local political jurisdictions

that offer inferior public services

and facilities because of their

limited tax base resources,

incompetence, corruption, or

other operational challenges.

These, in turn, may adversely

affect the personal development

and educational opportunities of


Institutional Effects

The last category of mechanisms

involves actions by those typically not

residing in the given neighborhood who

control important institutional resources

located there and/or points of interface

between neighborhood residents and

vital markets:

Stigmatization: Neighborhoods

may be stigmatized on the basis

of public stereotypes held by

powerful institutional or private

actors about its current residents.

In other cases this may occur

regardless of the neighborhood’s

current population because of its

history, environmental or

topographical disamenities, style,

scale and type of dwellings, or

condition of their commercial

districts and public spaces. Such

stigma may reduce the

opportunities and perceptions of

residents of stigmatized areas in

a variety of ways, such as job

opportunities and self-esteem.

Local Institutional Resources:

Some neighborhoods may have

access to few and/or high-quality

private, non-profit, or public

institutions and organizations,

such as benevolent charities, day

care facilities, schools, and

medical clinics. The lack of same

may adversely affect the personal

development opportunities of


Local Market Actors: There may

be substantial spatial variations in

the prevalence of certain private

market actors that may

encourage or discourage certain

behaviors by neighborhood

residents, such as liquor stores,

fresh food markets, fast food

restaurants, and illegal drug


Page 26 of 134

American Trends


Between 1970 and 1990 the number of

people living in high-poverty

neighborhoods - where the poverty rate

is 40% or higher - doubled. Because the

measure was not used in the US census

until 1970, the first time trends of

poverty concentration were studied

systematically was after the release of

1980s, as the number of neighborhoods

qualifying as areas of "extreme poverty"

continued to increase, but at a slower

rate than it had throughout the

1970s. These trends of concentrated

poverty at the level of the census tract

and neighborhood were similarly

reflected at the level of Metropolitan

Statistical Areas (MSA's). In both

decades between 1970–1990, the

differential between the poverty rates of

central cities and their suburbs

increased, reflecting an increasing

the 1980 census. Sociologist William

Julius Wilson found that during the

1970s, (1) poverty increased

dramatically throughout metropolitan

areas of the United States; (2) at the

same time, the number of poor people

residing within these areas increased;

and (3) this exacerbation of poverty

conditions occurred primarily within

African American neighborhoods.

Several scholars would go on to affirm

that in the 1970s America saw a

dramatic increase in the number of

neighborhoods that classified as areas

of concentrated poverty. This trend

extended to a lesser extent in the

spatial concentration of MSA poverty

within central cities. This changing

spatial distribution of poverty has been

attributed to changes in the labor market

(deindustrialization, an increasing gap

between wages available to skilled and

unskilled workers, spatial mismatch

between the types of jobs offered in the

city and the type of workers residing

there), declining economic growth

(although several studies have shown a

weak or non-existent link between

reduction of poverty and urban

economic growth in neighborhoods of

extreme poverty), the relocation of

upper- and middle-income residents

Page 27 of 134

from the city to the suburbs, and

demographic changes (the rise in oneparent

households and decrease in

labor market participation). These

changes were intertwined

with America's history of ethno-racial

segregation that produced the ghetto,

white flight from American cities, which

led to a declining tax base to provide

city services, and the civil rights

movement, which allowed better-off

blacks to leave inner-city areas.

Although concentrated poverty

increased among blacks, Hispanics, and

whites throughout 1970-1990s,

increases were far more dramatic

among blacks, followed by Hispanics,

and then to a much lesser extent whites.


The number of people living in highpoverty

neighborhoods declined by 24%

or 2.5 million people, in the 1990s. The

steepest declines in high-poverty

neighborhoods occurred in metropolitan

areas in the Midwest and South. The

share of the poor living in high-poverty

neighborhoods declined among all racial

and ethnic groups. This was especially

the case for African Americans, wherein

the share of poor black individuals living

in high-poverty neighborhoods declined

from 30 percent in 1990 to 19 percent in

2000. This decline of high-poverty

neighborhoods occurred in rural areas

and central cities, but suburbs

experienced almost no change.

Scholars have also recognized

qualitative shifts in areas of

"concentrated poverty." In a study of

Southern California metropolitan areas

(a state which did see rises in

concentrated poverty through the '90s

against the national trend), Wolch and

Sessoms point to the growing number of

working poor populations and the

emergence of inner-suburban poverty

which qualify as areas of "extreme

poverty" under the 40% threshold do not

demonstrate the same negative social

behaviors or physical decay of the

traditional image that the statistic was

first designed to designate. Other

scholars, have alternatively argued for

an expansion of the term and challenge

Jargowsky's claim of decreased poverty

concentration in the 1990s. Swanstrom

et al. have shown that by using the

relative definition of poverty as

employed in Europe based on 50% of

the median income in each region, the

'90s actually saw an increase in

concentrated poverty through most

American cities.


Whatever gains may have been made in

the reduction of concentrated poverty in

the '90s, it is clear that they did not

persist. Between 2000 and 2005–09, the

population in extremely poor

neighborhoods climbed by more than

one-third, from 6.6 million to 8.7 million.

The share of poor people living in these

sorts of neighborhoods, and thus

confronting the "double burden" of their

own poverty and the poverty of those

around them, grew from 9.1 percent to

10.5 percent during that

time. A Brookings


report attributes this trend to both the

downturn of 2000 and the 2008

recession. This poverty not only affected

inner cities, but continued to spread into

the suburbs, extending

the suburbanization trend


concentrated poverty first noted in the

1990s. Furthermore, the study found

that the concentrated poverty rate of

Page 28 of 134

2010 was approaching its all-time high,

estimating that the concentrated poverty

rate in U.S. metro areas grew to 15.1

percent in 2010 - up considerably from

11.7 percent in 2005-09, and nearing its

1990 high of 16.5 percent. This trend

seems to confirm William Julius Wilson's

original thesis that extremely poor

neighborhoods and their residents are

last to benefit from growth when times

are good, and first to feel it when tough

times arrive.

and operated by public housing

authorities under the rules of the public

housing program.(2) Creating income

diversity in new or redeveloped housing

projects, including former public housing

projects redeveloped under the HOPE

VI program. (3) Encouraging the use of

tenant-based housing vouchers for

families to locate in neighborhoods that

will improve the life opportunities of

family members. Because federal

housing policy was a compounding

Policy Interventions:


Since the early 1990s federal housing

policy has aimed at spatially

deconcentrating poverty. This has been

done in three ways. 1) Creating income

diversity within public housing

developments that continue to be owned

factor of concentrated between 1940–

1990, through the construction of large

public housing complexes the new

policies aim at reversing these earlier


Mobility Programs

The Moving To Opportunity (MTO)

program, authorized in 1992, was a pilot

Page 29 of 134

program that provided Section 8

vouchers to residents of public housing

so that they could move out of public

housing and into lower-poverty

neighborhoods. The program was

modeled on the Gautreaux program in

Chicago, which provided vouchers to

black public housing residents so that

they could move into more integrated

neighborhoods. MTO, Gautreaux and

smaller efforts like them were called

“mobility programs,” because they

enabled poor families in high-poverty

neighborhoods to move into better,

more integrated or more middle-class


The Gatreuax program had clearer and

stronger results than MTO. In the case

of Gatreuax, participants were assigned

to urban and suburban localities. The

suburban and urban participants started

out identical: all were selected from the

same pool of callers, and were randomly

placed into private apartments in either

suburban or urban locations. After

several years, the suburban and urban

participants had very different

outcomes. The urban participants were

likely to remain on the welfare rolls, but

their suburban counterparts were very

likely to find employment and leave

welfare. The urban participants' children

were likely to drop out of high school,

but their suburban counterparts are

likely to graduate from high school and

even college. The program participants'

children were initially below the

academic level of their classmates, but

because only a few families were moved

to each suburbs, the suburban teachers

could take time with each new child and

tutor each child individually until the

children were at the same level as their

classmates. In the case of MTO,

changes in employment and educational

improvement were not significant and

nearly half of the participants moved

back or remained in their original

neighborhood. Furthermore, most

participants did not move into the

suburbs, but instead more frequently

into other nearby urban neighborhoods

of lower poverty. However, the program

did show significant improvements in a

sense of security among the

participants, which resulted in the

reduction of stress, fear, and

depression, particularly among women

and young girls.

Several scholars have questioned both

the success and broader ability of such

policy interventions as an adequate

response to concentrated poverty.

Goetz argues that voluntary programs

like MTO and Gautreaux, though

justifiable on other grounds, will not

make a dent in concentrated poverty for

two reasons: a) these programs cream,

that is, they take only those families

most likely to succeed in their new

environments; and b) they will never

reach sufficient scale to noticeably affect

overall settlement patterns. MTO,

Gautreaux and other voluntary mobility

programs can apply to only a subset of

the poor by the political reality of

destination communities. Low-poverty

areas are not anxious to receive large

numbers of poor, public housing

families, and there will typically be

political backlash if current residents feel

that these families are being forced into

their neighborhoods, and it was this type

of resistance that ended the expansion

of the program in 1995. Venkatesh and

Celimi point out, dispersal programs

incorrectly assume the poor can

relocate as easily as the middle class

does. In fact, very real resource

constraints limit the ability of public

Page 30 of 134

housing families to abandon existing

support networks, and these constraints

limit the attractiveness of dispersal

strategies to poor families. Lastly,

mobility programs often contribute to

greater concentration and disadvantage

in the communities they are applied to

cream the more motivated families from

the area.

residents given units in the new

developments, it has failed to address

the issue of concentrated poverty at


Hope VI

Hope VI is a federal housing plan

designed to revitalize the nations public

housing projects into mixed income

developments. In most cases, such

projects involve demolishing older high

rise buildings composed entirely of

extremely low-income residents and

constructing higher quality, low-density,

housing with various tiers of income


While Hope VI has successfully

deconcentrated public housing sites, it

has done little to deconcentrate poverty

within poor neighborhoods in

general. Public housing families who are

displaced and relocated typically

reconcentrate in other poor

neighborhoods nearby. Very rarely do

these families relocate to low-poverty

suburbs. Well over half of HOPE VI

relocates either move into other public

housing or use vouchers to rent units on

the private market. Public housing units

are, of course, likely to be in low-income

neighborhoods. Families using vouchers

are also likely to move into low-income

areas, because it is there that they will

find units with rents that are eligible for

the program and landlords who are

willing to rent to them. Therefore, while

HOPE VI has significantly improved the

physical quality of several public

housing sites and the lives of former

Page 31 of 134

Page 32 of 134

II. The Cycle and Culture

of Poverty

In economics, the Cycle of Poverty is the "set of factors or events by which

poverty, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention".

The cycle of poverty has been defined as a phenomenon where poor families become

impoverished for at least three generations, i.e. for enough time that the family includes

no surviving ancestors who possess and can transmit the intellectual, social,

and cultural capitalnecessary to stay out of or change their impoverished condition. In

calculations of expected generation length and ancestor lifespan,

the lower median age of parents in these families is offset by the

shorter lifespans in many of

these groups.

Such families have either

limited or no resources.

There are


disadvantages that

collectively work in a

circular process making it

virtually impossible for

individuals to break the cycle. [2] This

occurs when poor

people do not have the resources necessary to

get out of poverty, such as financial capital, education, or

connections. In other words, impoverished individuals do not

have access to economic and social resources as a result of their

poverty. This lack may increase their poverty. This could mean that the poor remain

poor throughout their lives. This cycle has also been referred to as a "pattern" of

behaviors and situations which cannot easily be changed.

The poverty cycle can be called the "development trap" or "poverty trap" when it is

applied to countries.

Page 33 of 134

Ruby K. Payne, author of A Framework for Understanding Poverty, distinguishes

between situational poverty, which can generally be traced to a specific incident within

the lifetimes of the person or family members in poverty, and generational poverty,

which is a cycle that passes from generation to generation, and goes on to argue that

generational poverty has its own distinct culture and belief patterns.

Causes of The Cycle

The following are causes of poverty:

Low productivity

Low salary

Poor infrastructure and governance

Business failure

Ignorance, lack of skills and technology

Unhealthiness or diseases


Inability to access resources such as land, finance, information, and technical


No ongoing education

Lack of education and knowledge


Marital status: Single parenthood

Belief that one is self-limited and destined to remain trapped in poverty

Belief that one is a victim and powerless to break free from poverty

Family Background

A 2002 research paper titled "The Changing Effect of Family Background on the

Incomes of American Adults" analyzed changes in the determinants of family

income between 1961 and 1999, focusing on the effect of parental education,

occupational rank, income, marital status, family size, region of residence, race,

and ethnicity. The paper (1) outlines a simple framework for thinking about how family

background affects children's family and income, (2) summarizes previous research on

trends in intergenerational inheritance in the United States, (3) describes the data used

as a basis for the research which it describes, (4) discusses trends in inequality among

parents, (5) describes how the effects of parental inequality changed between 1961 and

1999, (6) contrasts effects at the top and bottom of the distribution, and (7) discusses

whether intergenerational correlations of zero would be desirable. The paper concludes

by posing the question of whether reducing the intergenerational correlation is an

efficient strategy for reducing poverty or inequality.

Because improving the skills of disadvantaged children seems relatively easy, it is an

attractive strategy. However, judging by American experience since the 1960s,

improving the skills of disadvantaged children has proved difficult. As a result, the paper

suggests, there are probably cheaper and easier ways to reduce poverty and inequality,

Page 34 of 134

such as supplementing the wages of the poor or changing immigration policy so that it

drives down the relative wages of skilled rather than unskilled workers. These

alternative strategies would not reduce intergenerational correlations, but they would

reduce the economic gap between children who started life with all the disadvantages

instead of all the advantages.

Another paper, titled Do poor children become poor adults?, which was originally

presented at a 2004 symposium on the future of children from disadvantaged families in

France, and was later included in a 2006 collection of papers related to the theme of the

dynamics of inequality and poverty, discusses generational income mobility in North

America and Europe. The paper opens by observing that in the United States almost

one half of children born to low income parents become low income adults, four in ten in

the United Kingdom, and one-third in Canada. The paper goes on to observe that rich

children also tend to become rich adults—four in ten in the U.S. and the U.K., and as

many as one-third in Canada. The paper argues, however, that money is not the only or

even the most important factor influencing intergenerational income mobility. The

rewards to higher skilled and/or higher educated individuals in the labor market and the

opportunities for children to obtain the required skills and credentials are two important

factors. Reaching the conclusion that income transfers to lower income individuals may

be important to children in the here and now, but they should not be counted on to

strongly promote generational mobility. The paper recommends that governments focus

on investments in children to ensure that they have the skills and opportunities to

Page 35 of 134

succeed in the labor market, and observes that though this has historically meant

promoting access to higher and higher levels of education, it is becoming increasingly

important that attention be paid to preschool and early childhood education.

Lack of Jobs Due To Deindustrialization

Sociologist William Julius Wilson has said that the economic restructuring of changes

from manufacturing to a service-based economy has led to a high percentage of

joblessness in the inner-cities and with it a loss of skills and inability to find jobs. This

"mismatch" of skills to jobs available is said to be the main driver of poverty.

Effects of Modern Education

Research shows that schools with students that perform lower than the norm are also

those hiring least-qualified teachers as a result of new teachers generally working in the

area that they grew up in. This leads to certain schools not producing many students

that go on to college. Students from these schools that go on to be college graduates

are not as skilled as they would be if they had gone to a school with higher-qualified

instructors. This leads to education perpetuating a cycle of poverty. The individuals that

choose to work in the schools close to them does not adequately supply the school with

enough teachers. The schools must then outsource their teachers from other

areas. Susanna Loeb from the School of Education at Stanford did a study and found

that teachers who are brought in from the suburbs are 10 times more likely to transfer

out of the school after their initial year. The fact that the teachers from the suburbs leave

appears to be an influential factor for schools hiring more teachers from that area. The

lack of adequate education for children is part of what allows for the cycle of poverty to


Culture of Poverty

Another theory for the perpetual cycle of poverty is that poor people have their own

culture with a different set of values and beliefs that keep them trapped within that cycle

generation to generation. This theory has been explored by Ruby K. Payne in her

book A Framework for Understanding Poverty. In this book she explains how a social

class system in the United States exists, where there is a wealthy upper class, a middle

class, and the working poor class. These classes each have their own set of rules and

values, which differ from each other. To understand the culture of poverty, Payne

describes how these rules affect the poor and tend to keep them trapped in this

continual cycle. Time is treated differently by the poor; they generally do not plan ahead

but simply live in the moment, which keeps them from saving money that could help

their children escape poverty.

Payne emphasizes how important it is when working with the poor to understand their

unique cultural differences so that one does not get frustrated but instead tries to work

with them on their ideologies and help them to understand how they can help

themselves and their children escape the cycle. One aspect of generational poverty is

Page 36 of 134

a learned helplessness that is passed from parents to children, a mentality that there is

no way for one to get out of poverty and so in order to make the best of the situation

one must enjoy what one can when one can. This leads to such habits as spending

money immediately, often on unnecessary goods such as alcohol and cigarettes, thus

teaching their children to do the same and trapping them in poverty. Another important

point Payne makes is that leaving poverty is not as simple as acquiring money and

moving into a higher class but also includes giving up certain relationships in exchange

for achievement. This helps to explain why the culture of poverty tends endure from

generation to generation as most of the relationships the poor have are within that


The "culture of poverty" theory has been debated and critiqued by many people

including Eleanor Burke Leacock (and others) in her book The Culture of Poverty: A

Critique. Leacock claims that people who use the term, "culture of poverty" only

"contribute to the distorted characterizations of the poor." In addition, Michael Hannan in

an essay argues that the "culture of poverty" is "essentially untestable." This is due to

many things including the highly subjective nature of poverty and issues concerning the

universal act of classifying only some impoverished people as trapped in the culture.

Life Shocks

2004 research in New Zealand produced a report that showed that "life shocks" can be

endured only to a limited extent, after which people are much more likely to be tipped

into hardship. The researchers found very little differences in living standards for people

who have endured up to 7 negative events in their lifetime. People who had 8 or more

Page 37 of 134

life shocks were dramatically more likely to live in poverty than those who had 0 to 7 life


A few of the life shocks studied were:

Marriage (or similar) break-ups (divorce)

Forced sale of house

Unexpected and substantial drop in income



Substantial financial loss

Redundancy (being laid off from a job)

Becoming a sole parent

3 months or more unemployed

Major damage to home

House burgled

Victim of violence


A non-custodial sentence (community service, or fines, but not imprisonment)

Illness lasting three weeks or more

Major injury or health problem

Unplanned pregnancy and birth of a child

The study focused on just a few possible life shocks, but many others are likely as

traumatic or more so. Chronic PTSD, complex PTSD, and depression sufferers could

have innumerable causes for their mental illness, including those studied above. The

study is subject to some criticism.

Tracking in Education

History in the United States has shown that Americans saw education as the way to end

the perpetual cycle of poverty. In the present, children from low to middle income

households are at a disadvantage. They are twice as likely to be held back and more

likely not to graduate from high school. Recent studies have shown that the cause for

the disparity among academic achievement results from the school's structure where

some students succeed from an added advantage and others fail as a result of lacking

that advantage. Educational institutions with a learning disparity are causing education

to be a sustaining factor for the cycle of poverty. One prominent example of this type of

school structures is tracking, which is predominantly used to help organize a classroom

so the variability of academic ability in classes is decreased. Students are tracked

based on their ability level, generally based on a standardized test after which they are

given different course requirements. Some people believe that tracking "enhances

academic achievement and improves the self-concept of students by permitting them to

progress at their own pace."

Page 38 of 134

The negative side is that studies have shown that tracking decreases students'

opportunity to learn. Tracking also has a disproportionate number of Latinos and African

Americans that have low socioeconomic status in the lower learning tracks. Tracking

separates social classes putting the poor and minority children in lower tracks where

they receive second-rate education, and the students that are better off are placed in

upper tracks where they have many opportunities for success. Studies have found that

in addition to the higher tracks having more extensive curriculum, there is also a

disparity among the teachers and instructional resources provided. There appears to be

a race/class bias which results in intelligent children not receiving the skills or

opportunities needed for success or social/economic mobility, thus continuing the cycle

of poverty. There is an overall perception that American education is failing and

research has done nothing to counter this statement, but instead has revealed the

reality and severity of the issue of the existence of tracking and other structures that

cause the cycle of poverty to continue.

Theories and Strategies for Breaking The Cycle

While many governmental officials are still trying to find an answer to poverty, many

states and localities are making an effort to break the cycle. Mayor Bloomberg of New

York City has been advocating a plan where parents are paid up to $5,000.00 a year for

Page 39 of 134

meeting certain goals that will better their lives. This policy was modeled after a

Mexican initiative that aims to help poor families make better decisions that will help

them in the long-term and break cycle of poverty and dependence that have been

known to last for generations. In addition, many states also have been making an

attempt to help break the cycle. For example, a bill has been proposed in the California

Assembly that "would establish an advisory Childhood Poverty Council to develop a

plan to reduce child poverty in the state by half by 2017 and eliminate it by 2027". Even

when the plan has poverty reduction as the goal, a rise in child poverty might be the

reality for many states as it was in Connecticut. States are attempting to not only

decrease the number of people in the cycle of poverty, but to also adjust the stringent

work requirements that resulted from Congress’s welfare reform. The tougher work

restrictions have upset many poverty advocates that believe the new regulations

prevent individuals that are vulnerable or that lack skills from preparing for work.

California Democratic Representative McDermott believes as a result of this and other

effects of the new limitations, it has been harder for individuals to escape a life

of poverty.

In his book Children in Jeopardy: Can We Break the Cycle, Irving B. Harris discusses

ways in which children can be helped to begin breaking the cycle of poverty. He

stresses the importance of starting early and teaching children the importance of

education from a very young age as well as making sure these children get the same

educational opportunities as students who are richer. Family values such as nurturing

children and encouraging them to do well in school need to be promoted as well as a

non-authoritarian approach to parenting. Harris also discusses the importance of

discouraging teenage pregnancy and finding ways in which to decrease this

phenomenon so that when children are born they are planned and wanted and thus

have a better chance at breaking the cycle of poverty.

It has been suggested by researchers like Lane Kenworthy that increasing welfare

benefits and extending them to non-working families can help reduce poverty as other

nations that have done so have had better results.

The Harlem Children's Zone is working to end generational poverty within a 100-block

section of Harlem using an approach that provides educational support and services for

children and their families from birth through college. This approach has been

recognized as a model by the Obama administration's anti-poverty program.

Effects on Children

Children are most at the mercy of the cycle of poverty. Because a child is dependent on

his or her guardian(s), if a child's guardian is in poverty, then they will be also. It is

almost impossible for a child to pull him or herself out of the cycle due to age, lack of

experience, lack of a job, etc. Because children are at such a young and impressionable

age, the scars they gain from experiencing poverty early in life inevitably carry on into

their adult life. "Childhood lays the foundations for adult abilities, interests, and

Page 40 of 134

motivation." Therefore, if they learn certain poverty-related behaviors in childhood, the

behaviors are more likely to perpetuate.

Studies have shown that household structure sometimes has a connection to childhood

poverty. Most studies on the subject also show that the children that are in poverty tend

to come from single-parent households (most often matriarchal). In 1997, nearly 8.5

million (57%) poor children in the US came from single-parent households. With the rate

of divorce increasing and the number of children born out of wedlock increasing, the

number of children that are born into or fall into single-parent households is also

increasing. However, this does not mean that the child/children will be impoverished

because of it.

According to Ashworth, Hill, & Walker (2004), both urban and rural poor children are

more likely to be isolated from the non-poor in schools, neighborhoods, and their

communities. Human nature is to have relationships with others but when a child is

isolated due to their socioeconomic status, it's hard to overcome that when the status

doesn't improve. Therefore, poor children also have more tense relationships which

sometimes results in abnormal behavior, acting out, or other unexplained behaviors.

There have been programs developed to specifically address the needs of poor

children. Francis Marion University's Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of

Children of Poverty has a number of initiatives devoted to equipping teachers to be

Page 41 of 134

more effective in raising the achievement of children of poverty. Located in South

Carolina, the Center provides direct teacher training as well as facilitates research in the

area of poverty and scholastic achievement.

Oftentimes the communities in which impoverished children grow up in are crime ridden

areas, examples of these areas are Harlem and the Bronx. These areas have effects on

children as they are often exposed to crime and maltreatment at a young age, which is

proven to reduce a child's ability to learn by up to 5% Oftentimes these youth get caught

up in the crime that goes on all around them, this involvement only worsens the effects

of the cycle as they are often incarcerated or killed in many types of gang violence.

The Culture of Poverty

The culture of poverty is a concept in social theory that expands on the idea of a cycle

of poverty. It attracted academic and policy attention in the 1970s, survived harsh

academic criticism (Goode & Eames 1996; Bourgois 2001; Small, Harding & Lamont

2010), and made a comeback at the beginning of the 21st century. It offers one way to

explain why poverty exists despite anti-poverty programs. Critics of the early culture of

poverty arguments insist that explanations of poverty must analyze how structural

factors interact with and condition individual characteristics (Goode & Eames

1996; Bourgois 2001; Small, Harding & Lamont 2010). As put by Small, Harding &

Lamont (2010), "since human action is both constrained and enabled by the meaning

people give to their actions, these dynamics should become central to our

understanding of the production and reproduction of poverty and social inequality."

Early Formulations

Early proponents of the theory argued that the poor are not only lacking resources but

also acquire a poverty-perpetuating value system. According to anthropologist Oscar

Lewis, "The subculture [of the poor] develops mechanisms that tend to perpetuate it,

especially because of what happens to the worldview, aspirations, and character of the

children who grow up in it" (Lewis 1969, p. 199)

Some later scholars (Young 2004; Newman 1999; Edin & Kefalas 2005; Dohan

2003; Hayes 2003; Carter 2005; Waller 2002; Duneier 1992) contend that the poor do

not have different values.

The term "subculture of poverty" (later shortened to "culture of poverty") made its first

appearance in Lewis's ethnography Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture

of Poverty (1959). Lewis struggled to render "the poor" as legitimate subjects whose

lives were transformed by poverty. He argued that although the burdens of poverty were

systemic and so imposed upon these members of society, they led to the formation of

an autonomous subculture as children were socialized into behaviors and attitudes that

perpetuated their inability to escape the underclass.

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Lewis gave 70 characteristics (1996 [1966], 1998) that indicated the presence of the

culture of poverty, which he argued was not shared among all of the lower classes.

The people in the culture of poverty have a strong feeling of marginality, of

helplessness, of dependency, of not belonging. They are like aliens in their own country,

convinced that the existing institutions do not serve their interests and needs. Along with

this feeling of powerlessness is a widespread feeling of inferiority, of personal

unworthiness. This is true of the slum dwellers of Mexico City, who do not constitute a

distinct ethnic or racial group and do not suffer from racial discrimination. In the United

States the culture of poverty that exists in the black community has the additional

disadvantage of perceived racial discrimination.

People with a culture of poverty have very little sense of history. They are a marginal

people who know only their own troubles, their own local conditions, their own

neighborhood, their own way of life. Usually, they have neither the knowledge, the

vision nor the ideology to see the similarities between their problems and those of

others like themselves elsewhere in the world. In other words, they are not class

conscious, although they are very sensitive indeed to status distinctions. When the poor

become class conscious or members of trade union organizations, or when they adopt

an internationalist outlook on the world they are, in my view, no longer part of the culture

of poverty although they may still be desperately poor.

(Lewis 1998)

Although Lewis was concerned with poverty in the developing world, the culture of

poverty concept proved attractive to US public policy makers and politicians. It strongly

informed documents such as the Moynihan Report (1965) as well as the War on

Poverty, more generally.

Page 43 of 134

The culture of poverty also emerges as a key concept in Michael Harrington's

discussion of American poverty in The Other America (1962). For Harrington, the

culture of poverty is a structural concept defined by social institutions of exclusion that

create and perpetuate the cycle of poverty in America.


Since the 1960s, critics of culture of poverty explanations for the persistence of the

underclasses have attempted to show that real world data do not fit Lewis's model

(Goode & Eames 1996). In 1974, anthropologist Carol Stack issued a critique of it,

calling it "fatalistic" and noticing the way that believing in the idea of a culture of poverty

does not describe the poor so much as it serves the interests of the rich.

She writes, citing Hylan Lewis another critics of Oscar Lewis' Culture of Poverty:

The culture of poverty, as Hylan Lewis points out, has a fundamental political nature.

The ideas matters most to political and scientific groups attempting to rationalize why

some Americans have failed to make it in American society. It is, Lewis (1971) argues,

'an idea that people believe, want to believe, and perhaps need to believe.' They want

to believe that raising the income of the poor would not change their life styles or

values, but merely funnel greater sums of money into bottomless, self-destructing pits.

This fatalistic view has wide acceptance among scholars, welfare planners, and the

voting public. Indeed, even at the most prestigious university, the country's theories

alleging racial inferiority have become increasingly prevalent.

Thus, she demonstrates the way that political interests to keep the wages of the poor

low create a climate in which it is politically convenient to buy into the idea of culture of

poverty (Stack 1974). In sociology and anthropology, the concept created a backlash,

pushing scholars to look to structures rather than "blaming-the-victim" (Bourgois 2001).

Since the late 1990s, the culture of poverty has witnessed a resurgence in the social

sciences, but most scholars now reject the notion of a monolithic and unchanging

culture of poverty. Newer research typically rejects the idea that whether people are

poor can be explained by their values. It is often reluctant to divide explanations into

"structural" and "cultural," because of the increasingly questionable utility of this old


Page 44 of 134

III. The War On Poverty

The War on Poverty is the unofficial

name for legislation first introduced

by United States President Lyndon B.

States Congress to pass the Economic

Opportunity Act, which established

the Office of Economic

Johnson during his State of the Union

address on Wednesday, January 8,

1964. This legislation was proposed by

Johnson in response to a

national poverty rate of around nineteen

percent. The speech led the United

Opportunity (OEO) to administer the

local application of federal funds

targeted against poverty.

As a part of the Great Society, Johnson

believed in expanding the federal

Page 45 of 134

government's roles in education and

health care as poverty

reduction strategies. These policies can

also be seen as a continuation

of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal,

which ran from 1933 to 1937, and

the Four Freedoms of 1941. Johnson

stated "Our aim is not only to relieve the

symptom of poverty, but to cure it and,

above all, to prevent it".

The legacy of the War on Poverty policy

initiative remains in the continued

existence of such federal programs

as Head Start, Volunteers in Service to

America (VISTA), TRiO, and Job Corps.

The popularity of a war on poverty

waned after the 1960s. Deregulation,

growing criticism of the welfare state,

and an ideological shift to reducing

federal aid to impoverished people in

the 1980s and 1990s culminated in

the Personal Responsibility and Work

Opportunity Act of 1996, which

President Bill Clinton claimed, "ended

welfare as we know it."

Major Initiatives

The Economic Opportunity Act of

1964 which created

the Community


Program, Job

Corps and Volunteers in Service

to America (VISTA), centerpiece

of the "war on poverty" – August

20, 1964

Food Stamp Act of 1964 –

August 31, 1964 [3]

Elementary and Secondary

Education Act - April 11, 1965

Social Security Act

1965 (Created Medicare and

Medicaid) – July 19, 1965

The Office of Economic Opportunity was

the agency responsible for administering

most of the War on Poverty programs

created during Johnson's

Administration, including VISTA, Job

Corps, Head Start, Legal Services and

the Community Action Program. The

OEO was established in 1964 and

quickly became a target of both left-wing

and right-wing critics of the War on

Poverty. Directors of the OEO

included Sargent Shriver, Bertrand

Harding, and Donald Rumsfeld.

The OEO launched Project Head Start

as an eight-week summer program in

1965. The project was designed to help

end poverty by providing preschool

children from low-income families with a

program that would meet emotional,

social, health, nutritional, and

psychological needs. Head Start was

then transferred to the Office of Child

Development in the Department of

Health, Education, and Welfare (later

the Department of Health and Human

Services) by the Nixon Administration in


President Johnson also announced a

second project to follow children from

the Head Start program. This was

implemented in 1967 with Project Follow

Through, the largest educational

experiment ever conducted.

The policy trains disadvantaged and atrisk

youth and has provided more than 2

million disadvantaged young people with

the integrated academic, vocational, and

social skills training they need to gain

independence and get quality, long-term

Page 46 of 134

jobs or further their education. Job

Corps continues to help 70,000 youths

annually at 122 Job Corps centers

throughout the country. Besides

vocational training, many Job Corps

also offer GED programs as well as high

school diplomas and programs to get

students into college.

The 'absolute poverty line' is the

threshold below which families or

individuals are considered to be lacking

the resources to meet the basic needs

for healthy living; having insufficient

income to provide the food, shelter and

clothing needed to preserve health.

Results and Aftermath

In the decade following the 1964

introduction of the war on poverty,

poverty rates in the U.S. dropped to

their lowest level since comprehensive

records began in 1958: from 17.3% in

the year the Economic Opportunity Act

was implemented to 11.1% in 1973.

They have remained between 11 and

15.2% ever since. It is important to note,

however, that the steep decline in

poverty rates began in 1959, 5 years

before the introduction of the war on

poverty (see figure 4 below).

Poverty among Americans between

ages 18–64 has fallen only marginally

since 1966, from 10.5% then to 10.1%

today. Poverty has significantly fallen

among Americans under 18 years old

from 23% in 1964 down to less than

17%, although it has risen again to 20%

in 2009. The most dramatic decrease in

poverty was among Americans over 65,

which fell from 28.5% in 1966 to 10.1%


In 2004, more than 35.9 million, or 12%

of Americans including 12.1 million

children, were considered to be living in

Page 47 of 134

poverty with an average growth of

almost 1 million per year. According to

the Cato Institute, a libertarian think

tank, since the Johnson Administration,

almost $15 trillion has been spent on

welfare, with poverty rates being about

the same as during the Johnson

Administration. A 2013 study published

by Columbia University asserts that

without the social safety net, the poverty

rate would have been 29% for 2012,

instead of 16%. According

to OECD data from 2012, the poverty

rate before taxes and transfers was

28.3%, while the poverty rate after taxes

and transfers fell to 17.4%.

The OEO was dismantled by President

Nixon in 1973, though many of the

agency's programs were transferred to

other government agencies.

According to the "Readers' Companion

to U.S. Women's History",

Many observers point out that

the War on Poverty's attention

to Black America created the

grounds for the backlash that

began in the 1970s. The

perception by the white middle

class that it was footing the bill

for ever-increasing services to

the poor led to diminished

support for welfare state

programs, especially those that

targeted specific groups and

neighborhoods. Many whites

viewed Great Society programs

as supporting the economic and

social needs of low-income

urban minorities; they lost

sympathy, especially as the

economy declined during the


United States Secretary of Health,

Education, and Welfare under

President Jimmy Carter, Joseph A.

Califano, Jr. wrote in 1999 in an issue of

the Washington Monthly that:

In waging the war on poverty,

congressional opposition was

too strong to pass an income

maintenance law. So LBJ took

advantage of the biggest

automatic cash machine

around: Social Security. He

proposed, and Congress

enacted, whopping increases in

the minimum benefits that lifted

some two million Americans 65

and older above the poverty

line. In 1996, thanks to those

increased minimum benefits,

Social Security lifted 12 million

senior citizens above the

poverty line ... No Great Society

undertaking has been subjected

to more withering conservative

attacks than the Office of

Economic Opportunity. Yet, the

War on Poverty was founded on

the most conservative principle:

Put the power in the local

community, not in Washington;

give people at the grassroots

the ability to stand tall on their

own two feet. Conservative

claims that the OEO poverty

programs were nothing but a

waste of money are

preposterous ... Eleven of the

12 programs that OEO launched

in the mid-'60s are alive, well

and funded at an annual rate

exceeding $10 billion;

apparently legislators believe

they're still working.

Reception and Critique

President Johnson's "War on Poverty"

speech was delivered at a time of

recovery (the poverty level had fallen

from 22.4% in 1959 to 19% in 1964

when the War on Poverty was

announced) and it was viewed by critics

as an effort to get the United States

Congress to authorize social

welfare programs.

Page 48 of 134

Some economists, including Milton

Friedman, have argued that Johnson's

policies actually had a negative impact

on the economy because of their

interventionist nature, noting in

a PBS interview that "the government

sets out to eliminate poverty, it has a

war on poverty, so-called "poverty"

increases. It has a welfare program, and

Prof. Tony Judt, the late historian, said

in reference to the earlier proposed title

of the Personal Responsibility and Work

Opportunity Act that "a more Orwellian

title would be hard to conceive" and

attributed the decline in the popularity of

the Great Society as a policy to its

success, as fewer people feared

hunger, sickness, and ignorance.

the welfare program leads to an

expansion of problems. A general

attitude develops that government isn't a

very efficient way of doing things."

Adherents of this school of thought

recommend that the best way to fight

poverty is not through government

spending but through economic growth.

Additionally, fewer people were

concerned with ensuring a minimum

standard for all citizens and social


Conservative Research Fellow at the

Independent Institute James L. Payne

followed this line of thinking when he

wrote that "the war on poverty was a

costly, tragic mistake

[because]...abolishing poverty did not

Page 49 of 134

seem far-fetched to the activists ... [and]

it was a perspective that led to

intolerance ... The simple economic

theory of poverty led to a single

underlying principle for welfare

programs ... In adopting the handout

approach for their programs, the war-onpoverty

activists failed to notice—or

failed to care—that they were ignoring

over a century of theory and experience

in the social welfare field ... The war-onpoverty

activists not only ignored the

lessons of the past on the subject of

handouts; they also ignored their own

experience with the poor."

Thomas Sowell also criticized the War

on Poverty's programs, writing "The

black family, which had survived

centuries of slavery and discrimination,

began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal

welfare state that subsidized unwed

pregnancy and changed welfare from an

emergency rescue to a way of life."

Others took a different tack. In 1967, in

his book Where Do We Go from Here:

Chaos or Community? Martin Luther

King "criticized Johnson's War on

Poverty for being too piecemeal", saying

that programs created under the "war on

poverty" such as "housing programs, job

training and family counseling" all had "a

fatal disadvantage [because] the

programs have never proceeded on a

coordinated basis...[and noted that] at

no time has a total, coordinated and fully

adequate program been conceived." In

his speech on April 4, 1967 at Riverside

Church in New City, King connected the

war in Vietnam with the "war on


There is at the outset a very

obvious and almost facile

connection between the war in

Vietnam and the struggle I, and

others, have been waging in

America. A few years ago there

was a shining moment in that

struggle. It seemed as if there

was a real promise of hope for

the poor—both black and

white—through the poverty

program. There were

experiments, hopes, new

beginnings. Then came the

buildup in Vietnam and I

watched the program broken

and eviscerated as if it were

some idle political plaything of a

society gone mad on war, and I

knew that America would never

invest the necessary funds or

energies in rehabilitation of its

poor so long as adventures like

Vietnam continued to draw men

and skills and money like some

demonic destructive suction

tube. So I was increasingly

compelled to see the war as an

enemy of the poor and to attack

it as such. Perhaps the more

tragic recognition of reality took

place when it became clear to

me that the war was doing far

more than devastating the

hopes of the poor at home.

This criticism was repeated in his

speech at the same place later that

month when he said that "and you may

not know it, my friends, but it is

estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill

each enemy soldier, while we spend

only fifty-three dollars for each person

classified as poor, and much of that fiftythree

dollars goes for salaries to people

that are not poor. So I was increasingly

compelled to see the war as an enemy

of the poor, and attack it as such." The

next year, King started the Poor

People's Campaign to address the

shortcomings of the "war on poverty"

and to "demand a check" for suffering

African-Americans which was carried on

briefly after his death with the

construction and maintenance of an

encampment, Resurrection City, for over

Page 50 of 134

six weeks. Years later, a writer in The

Nation remarked that "the war on

poverty has too often been a war on the

poor themselves," but that much can be


single-parent households,

rampant illiteracy, drugs and

crime - these have been both

the results of and causes of

persistent poverty. While it is

thus inappropriate to celebrate

an anniversary of the war on

In 1989, the former executive officer of

the Task Force on Poverty Hyman

Bookbinder addressed such criticisms of

the "war on poverty" in an op-ed in The

New York Times.

He wrote that:

Today, the ranks of the poor are

again swelling ... These and

other statistics have led

careless observers to conclude

that the war on poverty failed.

No, it has achieved many good

results. Society has failed. It

tired of the war too soon, gave it

inadequate resources and did

not open up new fronts as



homelessness, an explosion of

teen-age pregnancies and

poverty, it is important to point

up some of the big gains ... Did

every program of the 60's work?

Was every dollar used to its

maximum potential? Should

every Great Society program be

reinstated or increased? Of

course not ... First, we cannot

afford not to resume the war.

One way or another, the

problem will remain expensive.

Somehow, we will provide for

the survival needs of the

poorest: welfare, food stamps,

beds and roofs for the

homeless, Medicaid. The fewer

poor there are, the fewer the

relief problems. Getting people

out of poverty is the most costeffective

public investment."

Page 51 of 134

In March 3, 2014, as Chairman of the

Budget Committee of the House of

Representatives, Paul Ryan released

his "The War on Poverty: 50 Years

Later" report, asserting that some of 92

federal programs designed to help

lower-income Americans have not

provided the relief intended and that

there is little evidence that these efforts

have been successful. At the core of the

report are recommendations to enact

cuts to welfare, child care, college Pell

grants and several other federal

assistance programs. In the appendix

titled "Measures of Poverty", when the

poverty rate is measured by including

non-cash assistance from food stamps,

housing aid and other federal programs,

the report states that these

measurements have "implications for

both conservatives and liberals. For

conservatives, this suggests that federal

programs have actually decreased

poverty. For liberals, it lessens the

supposed need to expand existing

programs or to create new

ones." Several economists and social

scientists whose work had been

referenced in the report said that Ryan

either misunderstood or misrepresented

their research.

Page 52 of 134

IV. Welfare and Its Effects

On Poverty

Welfare is the provision of a minimal level of well-being and social support for

citizens and other eligible residents without sufficient current means to support basic

needs. In most developed countries, welfare is mainly provided by the government from

tax revenue, and to a lesser extent by NGOs, charities, informal social groups, religious

groups, and inter-governmental organizations.

Social security expands on this concept, especially in welfare states, by providing all

inhabitants with various social services such as universal healthcare, unemployment

insurance, student financial aid (in addition to free post-secondary education), and


In its 1952 Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention (nr. 102), the International

Labor Organization (ILO) defined the traditional contingencies covered by social


Page 53 of 134


Terminology in this area is somewhat different in the United States than in the rest of

the English-speaking world. The general term for an action program in support of the

well being of poor people in the United States is welfare program, and the general term

for all such programs is simply welfare. In American society, the term welfare arguably

has negative connotations. In the United States, the term Social Security refers to the

US social insurance program for all retired and disabled people. Elsewhere the term

social security is used in a much broader sense, referring to the economic security that

society offers when people are faced with certain risks.

Recent UK official use of the term welfare includes not only minimal help for people in

need but also some services traditionally called benefits and social security in most

English-speaking countries except the United States. The term is even used to include

government help in finding employment.

Non-native English speakers are often confused by the use of welfare to refer to

different things in different countries and in the same country, for example well being,

but native speakers can usually understand from the context which meaning is



In the Roman Empire, the first emperor Augustus provided the Cura Annonae or grain

dole for citizens who could not afford to buy food every month. Social welfare was

enlarged by the Emperor Trajan. Trajan's program brought acclaim from many,

including Pliny the Younger. The Song dynasty government (c.1000AD in China)

supported multiple programs which could be classified as social welfare, including the

establishment of retirement homes, public clinics, and paupers' graveyards. According

to economist Robert Henry Nelson, "The medieval Roman Catholic Church operated a

far-reaching and comprehensive welfare system for the poor..."

Early welfare programs in Europe included the English Poor Law of 1601, which gave

parishes the responsibility for providing welfare payments to the poor. This system was

substantially modified by the 19th-century Poor Law Amendment Act, which introduced

the system of workhouses.

Public assistance programs were not called welfare until the early 20th century when

the term was quickly adopted to avoid the negative connotations that had become

associated with older terms such as charity.

It was predominantly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that an organized system

of state welfare provision was introduced in many countries. Otto von Bismarck,

Chancellor of Germany, introduced one of the first welfare systems for the working

classes. In Great Britain the Liberal government of Henry Campbell-Bannerman and

David Lloyd George introduced the National Insurance system in 1911, a system later

Page 54 of 134

expanded by Clement Attlee. The United States inherited England's poor house laws

and has had a form of welfare since before it won its independence. During the Great

Depression, when emergency relief measures were introduced under President Franklin

D. Roosevelt, Roosevelt's New Deal focused predominantly on a program of providing

work and stimulating the economy through public spending on projects, rather than on

cash payment.

Modern welfare states include Germany, France, the Netherlands, as well as the Nordic

countries, such as Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland which employ a

system known as the Nordic model. Esping-Andersen classified the most developed

welfare state systems into three categories; Social Democratic, Conservative, and




Islamic world, Zakat (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, has been collected by the

government since the time of the Rashidun caliph Umar in the 7th century. The taxes

were used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans,

widows, and the disabled. According to the Islamic jurist Al-Ghazali (Algazel, 1058–

111), the government was also expected to store up food supplies in every region in

case a disaster or famine occurred.


Welfare can take a variety of forms, such as monetary payments, subsidies and

vouchers, or housing assistance. Welfare systems differ from country to country, but

Page 55 of 134

welfare is commonly provided to individuals who are unemployed, those with illness or

disability, the elderly, those with dependent children, and veterans. A person's eligibility

for welfare may also be constrained by means testing or other conditions.

Provision and Funding

Welfare is provided by governments or their agencies, by private organizations, or a

combination of both. Funding for welfare usually comes from general government

revenue, but when dealing with charities or NGOs, donations may be used. Some

countries run conditional cash transfer welfare programs where payment is conditional

on behavior of the recipients.


Welfare Systems

Prior to 1900 in Australia, charitable assistance from benevolent societies, sometimes

with financial contributions from the authorities, was the primary means of relief for

people not able to support themselves. The 1890s economic depression and the rise of

the trade unions and the Labor parties during this period led to a movement for welfare


In 1900, the states of New South Wales and Victoria enacted legislation introducing

non-contributory pensions for those aged 65 and over. Queensland legislated a similar

system in 1907 before the Australian labor Commonwealth government led by Andrew

Fisher introduced a national aged pension under the Invalid and Old-Aged Pensions Act

1908. A national invalid disability pension was started in 1910, and a national maternity

allowance was introduced in 1912.

During the Second World War, Australia under a labor government created a welfare

state by enacting national schemes for: child endowment in 1941 (superseding the 1927

New South Wales scheme); a widows’ pension in 1942 (superseding the New South

Wales 1926 scheme); a wife’s allowance in 1943; additional allowances for the children

of pensioners in 1943; and unemployment, sickness, and special benefits in 1945

(superseding the Queensland 1923 scheme).


Canada has a welfare state in the European tradition; however, it is not referred to as

"welfare", but rather as "social programs". In Canada, "welfare" usually refers

specifically to direct payments to poor individuals (as in the American usage) and not to

healthcare and education spending (as in the European usage).

The Canadian social safety net covers a broad spectrum of programs, and because

Canada is a federation, many are run by the provinces. Canada has a wide range of

government transfer payments to individuals, which totaled $145 billion in 2006. Only

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social programs that direct funds to individuals are included in that cost; programs such

as medicare and public education are additional costs.

Generally speaking, before the Great Depression, most social services were provided

by religious charities and other private groups. Changing government policy between

the 1930s and 1960s saw the emergence of a welfare state, similar to many Western

European countries. Most programs from that era are still in use, although many were

scaled back during the 1990s as government priorities shifted towards reducing debt

and deficits.


Danish welfare is handled by the state through a series of policies (and the like) that

seeks to provide welfare services to citizens, hence the term welfare state. This refers

not only to social benefits, but also tax-funded education, public child care, medical

care, etc. A number of these services are not provided by the state directly, but

administered by municipalities, regions or private providers through outsourcing. This

sometimes gives a source of tension between the state and municipalities, as there is

not always consistency between the promises of welfare provided by the state (i.e.

parliament) and local perception of what it would cost to fulfill these promises.


Solidarity is a strong value of the French Social Protection system. The first article of the

French Code of Social Security describes the principle of solidarity. Solidarity is

commonly comprehended in relations of similar work, shared responsibility and

common risks. Existing solidarities in France caused the expansion of health and social


Page 57 of 134


The welfare state has a long tradition in Germany dating back to the industrial

revolution. Due to the pressure of the workers' movement in the late 19th century,

Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck introduced the first rudimentary state social insurance

scheme. Under Adolf Hitler, the National Socialist Program stated "We demand an

expansion on a large scale of old age welfare".

Today, the social protection of all its citizens is considered a central pillar of German

national policy. 27.6 percent of Germany's GDP is channeled into an all-embracing

system of health, pension, accident, longterm care and unemployment insurance,

compared to 16.2 percent in the US. In addition, there are tax-financed services such as

child benefits (Kindergeld, beginning at €192 per month for the first and second child,

€198 for the third and €223 for each child thereafter, until they attain 25 years or receive

their first professional qualification), and basic provisions for those unable to work or

anyone with an income below the poverty line.

Since 2005, reception of full unemployment pay (60–67% of the previous net salary)

has been restricted to 12 months in general and 18 months for those over 55. This is

now followed by (usually much lower) Arbeitslosengeld II (ALG II) or Sozialhilfe, which is

independent of previous employment (Hartz IV concept).

Under ALG II, a single person receives €391 per month plus the cost of 'adequate'

housing and health insurance. ALG II can also be paid partially to supplement a low

work income.


The Italian welfare state's foundations were laid along the lines of the corporatistconservative

model, or of its Mediterranean variant. Later, in the 1960s and 1970s,

increases in public spending and a major focus on universality brought it on the same

path as social-democratic systems.

In 1978, a universalistic welfare model was introduced in Italy, offering a number of

universal and free services such as a National Health Fund.


Social welfare, assistance for the ill or otherwise disabled and for the old, has long been

provided in Japan by both the government and private companies. Beginning in the

1920s, the government enacted a series of welfare programs, based mainly on

European models, to provide medical care and financial support.

During the postwar period, a comprehensive system of social security was gradually


Page 58 of 134

Latin America


The 1980s marked a change in the structure of Latin American social protection

programs. Social protection embraces three major areas: social insurance, financed by

workers and employers; social assistance to the population’s poorest, financed by the

state; and labor market regulations to protect worker rights. Although diverse, recent

Latin American social policy has tended to concentrate on social assistance.

The 1980s had a significant effect on social protection policies. Prior to the 1980s, most

Latin American countries focused on social insurance policies involving formal sector

workers, assuming that the informal sector would disappear with economic

development. The economic crisis of the 1980s and the liberalization of the labor market

led to a growing informal sector and a rapid increase in poverty and inequality. Latin

American countries did not have the institutions and funds to properly handle such a

crisis, both due to the structure of the social security system, and to the previously

implemented structural adjustment policies (SAPs) that had decreased the size of the


New Welfare programs have integrated the multidimensional, social risk management,

and capabilities approaches into poverty alleviation. They focus on income transfers

and service provisions while aiming to alleviate both long- and short-term poverty

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through, among other things, education, health, security, and housing. Unlike previous

programs that targeted the working class, new programs have successfully focused on

locating and targeting the very poorest.

The impacts of social assistance programs vary between countries, and many programs

have yet to be fully evaluated. According to Barrientos and Santibanez, the programs

have been more successful in increasing investment in human capital than in bringing

households above the poverty line. Challenges still exist, including the extreme

inequality levels and the mass scale of poverty; locating a financial basis for programs;

and deciding on exit strategies or on the long-term establishment of programs.

Latin America’s Most Recent Shift in Social Policies

The economic crisis of the 1980s led to a shift in social policies, as understandings of

poverty and social programs evolved (24). New, mostly short-term programs emerged.

These include:

Argentina: Jefes y Jefas de Hogar, Asignación Universal por Hijo

Bolivia: Bonosol

Brazil: Bolsa Escola and Bolsa Familia

Chile: Chile Solidario

Colombia: Solidaridad por Colombia

Ecuador: Bono de Desarollo Humano

Honduras: Red Solidaria

Mexico: Prospera (earlier known as Oportunidades)

Panama: Red de Oportunidades

Peru: Juntos

Major Aspects of Current Social Assistance Programs

Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Combined with Service Provisions.

Transfer cash directly to households, most often through the women of the

household, if certain conditions are met (e.g. children’s school attendance or

doctor visits) (10). Providing free schooling or healthcare is often not sufficient,

because there is an opportunity cost for the parents in, for example, sending

children to school (lost labor power), or in paying for the transportation costs of

getting to a health clinic.

Household. The household has been the focal point of social assistance


Target the Poorest. Recent programs have been more successful than past

ones in targeting the poorest. Previous programs often targeted the working


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Multidimensional. Programs have attempted to address many dimensions of

poverty at once. Chile Solidario is the best example.

New Zealand

New Zealand is often regarded as having one of the first comprehensive welfare

systems in the world. During the 1890s a Liberal government adopted many social

programmes to help the poor who had suffered from a long economic depression in the

1880s. One of the most far reaching was the passing of tax legislation that made it

difficult for wealthy sheep farmers to hold onto their large land holdings. This and the

invention of refrigeration led to a farming revolution where many sheep farms were

broken up and sold to become smaller dairy farms. This enabled thousands of new

farmers to buy land and develop a new and vigorous industry that has become the

backbone of New Zealand's economy to this day. This liberal tradition flourished with

increased enfranchisement for indigenous Maori in the 1880s and women. Pensions for

the elderly, the poor and war casualties followed, with State-run schools, hospitals and

subsidized medical and dental care. By 1960 New Zealand was able to afford one of the

best-developed and most comprehensive welfare systems in the world, supported by a

well-developed and stable economy.


Social welfare in Sweden is made up of several organizations and systems dealing with

welfare. It is mostly funded by taxes, and executed by the public sector on all levels of

government as well as private organizations. It can be separated into three parts falling

under three different ministries; social welfare, falling under the responsibility of Ministry

of Health and Social Affairs; education, under the responsibility of the Ministry of

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Education and Research and labor market, under the responsibility of Ministry of


Government pension payments are financed through an 18.5% pension tax on all taxed

incomes in the country, which comes partly from a tax category called a public pension

fee (7% on gross income), and 30% of a tax category called employer fees on salaries

(which is 33% on a netted income). Since January 2001 the 18.5% is divided in two

parts: 16% goes to current payments, and 2.5% goes into individual retirement

accounts, which were introduced in 2001. Money saved and invested in government

funds, and IRAs for future pension costs, are roughly 5 times annual government

pension expenses (725/150).

United Kingdom

UK Government welfare expenditure 2011–12

State pension (46.32%)

Housing Benefit (10.55%)

Disability Living Allowance (7.87%)

Pension Credit (5.06%)

Income Support (4.31%)

Rent rebates (3.43%)

Attendance Allowance (3.31%)

Jobseeker's Allowance (3.06%)

Incapacity Benefit (3.06%)

Council Tax Benefit (3%)

Other (10.03%)

The United Kingdom has a long history of welfare, notably including the English Poor

laws which date back to 1536. After various reforms to the program, which involved

workhouses, it was eventually abolished and replaced with a modern system by laws

such as National Assistance Act 1948.

In more recent times, comparing the Cameron–Clegg coalition's austerity measures with

the Opposition's, the respected Financial Times commentator Martin Wolf commented

that the "big shift from Labour ... is the cuts in welfare benefits." [33] The government's

austerity programme, which involves reduction in government policy, has been linked to

a rise in food banks. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2015 found that

each 1 percentage point increase in the rate of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants

sanctioned was associated with a 0.09 percentage point rise in food bank use.

The austerity programme has faced opposition from disability rights groups for

disproportionately affecting disabled people. The "bedroom tax" is an austerity measure

that has attracted particular criticism, with activists arguing that two thirds of council

houses affected by the policy are occupied with a person with a disability.

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United States

In the United States, depending on the context, the term “welfare” can be used to refer

to means-tested cash benefits, especially the Aid to Families with Dependent Children

(AFDC) program and its successor, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block

Grant, or it can be used to refer to all means-tested programs that help individuals or

families meet basic needs, including, for example, health care through Medicaid,

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and food and nutrition programs (SNAP).

It can also include Social Insurance programs such as Unemployment Insurance, Social

Security, and Medicare.

AFDC (originally called Aid to Dependent Children) was created during the Great

Depression to alleviate the burden of poverty for families with children and allow

widowed mothers to maintain their households. The New Deal employment program

such as the Works Progress Administration primarily served men. Prior to the New

Deal, anti-poverty programs were primarily operated by private charities or state or local

governments; however, these programs were overwhelmed by the depth of need during

the Depression. The United States has no national program of cash assistance for nondisabled

poor individuals who are not raising children.

Until early in the year of 1965, the news media was conveying only whites as living in

poverty however that perception had changed to blacks. Some of the influences in this

shift could have been the civil rights movement and urban riots from the mid 60s.

Welfare had then shifted from being a White issue to a Black issue and during this time

frame the war on poverty had already begun. Subsequently, news media portrayed

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stereotypes of Blacks as lazy, undeserving and welfare queens. These shifts in media

don't necessarily establish the population living in poverty decreasing.

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act changed

the structure of Welfare payments and added new criteria to states that received

Welfare funding. After reforms, which President Clinton said would "end Welfare as we

know it", amounts from the federal government were given out in a flat rate per state

based on population. Each state must meet certain criteria to ensure recipients are

being encouraged to work themselves out of Welfare. The new program is called

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It encourages states to require some

sort of employment search in exchange for providing funds to individuals, and imposes

a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. [39][41][43] In FY 2010, 31.8% of TANF families

were white, 31.9% were African-American, and 30.0% were Hispanic.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau data released September 13, 2011, the nation's

poverty rate rose to 15.1% (46.2 million) in 2010, up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6

million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. In 2008, 13.2% (39.8 million)

Americans lived in relative poverty.

In a 2011 op-ed in Forbes, Peter Ferrara stated that, "The best estimate of the cost of

the 185 federal means tested Welfare programs for 2010 for the federal government

alone is nearly $700 billion, up a third since 2008, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Counting state spending, total Welfare spending for 2010 reached nearly $900 billion,

up nearly one-fourth since 2008 (24.3%)". California, with 12% of the U.S. population,

has one-third of the nation's welfare recipients.

In FY 2011, federal spending on means-tested welfare, plus state contributions to

federal programs, reached $927 billion per year. Roughly half of this welfare assistance,

or $462 billion went to families with children, most of which are headed by single


The United States has also typically relied on charitable giving through non-profit

agencies and fundraising instead of direct monetary assistance from the government

itself. According to Giving USA, Americans gave $358.38 billion to charity in 2014. This

is rewarded by the United States government through tax incentives for individuals and

companies that are not typically seen in other countries.


Income transfers can be either conditional or unconditional. Conditionalities are

sometimes criticized as being paternalistic and unnecessary.

Current programs have been built as short-term rather than as permanent institutions,

and many of them have rather short time spans (around five years). Some programs

have time frames that reflect available funding. One example of this is Bolivia’s Bonosol,

which is financed by proceeds from the privatization of utilities—an unsustainable

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funding source. Some see Latin America’s social assistance programs as a way to

patch up high levels of poverty and inequalities, partly brought on by the current

economic system.

Some opponents of welfare argue that it affects work incentives. They also argue that

the taxes levied can also affect work incentives. A good example of this would be the

reform of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Per AFDC,

some amount per recipient is guaranteed. However, for every dollar the recipient earns

the monthly stipend is decreased by an equivalent amount. For most persons, this

reduces their incentive to work. This program was replaced by Temporary Aid to Needy

Families (TANF). Under TANF, people were required to actively seek employment while

receiving aid and they could only receive aid for a limited amount of time. However,

states can choose the amount of resources they will devote to the program.


Welfare's Effect On Poverty

Relatively modest increases in benefit levels for programs that assist nonworking

individuals and low-income workers might well be sufficient to bring the United States into

line with...the other affluent nations in its degree of poverty reduction.

—Lane Kenworthy

The effect of social welfare on poverty is controversial. Since the goal of welfare

programs is to reduce poverty, it has been debated, primarily in the United States,

whether or not welfare programs achieve this goal. Welfare programs enjoy more

popularity in virtually every other developed country.

Proponents argue welfare has reduced poverty in developed countries while opponents

argue welfare creates a negative incentive to not find work and thus sustains or even

creates poverty.

Proponents of Welfare Reducing Poverty

Studies have shown that in welfare states poverty decreases after countries adopt

welfare programs. Empirical evidence suggests that taxes and transfers considerably

reduce poverty in most countries whose welfare states commonly constitute at least a

fifth of GDP. In 2013, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

asserted that welfare spending is vital in reducing the ever expanding global wealth gap.

Table of Welfare Effect On Poverty Reduction

Timothy Smeeding used data from the Luxembourg Income Study to determine the

effectiveness of anti-poverty and welfare programs on poverty reduction. The data for all

the countries was from the year 2000 with the exception of the United Kingdom and the

Netherlands for which the data was from 1999.

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Country Social expenditures on non-elderly

(as percentage of GDP)

Total percent of

poverty reduced

United States 2.3 26.4

Netherlands 9.6 65.2

Sweden 11.6 77.4

Germany 7.3 70.5

Canada 5.8 46.0

Finland 10.9 69.7

United Kingdom 7.1 60.1

Belgium 9.3 76.9

Austria 7.4 75.8

Italy 4.3 57.7

Ireland 5.5 44.1

Average 7.4 60.9

Table of Poverty Levels Pre- and Post-Welfare

Two studies compare countries internationally before and after implementing social

welfare programs. Using data from the Luxembourg Income Study, Bradley et al. and

Lane Kenworthy measure the poverty rates both in relative terms (poverty defined by

the respective governments) and absolute terms, (poverty defined by 40% of US

median income) respectively. Kenworthy's study also adjusts for economic performance

and shows that the economy made no significant difference in uplifting people out of


The studies look at the different countries from 1960 to 1991 (Kenworthy) and from

1970 to 1997 (Bradley et al.). Both these periods are roughly when major welfare

programs were implemented such as the War on Poverty in the United States. The

results of both studies show that poverty has been significantly reduced during the

periods when major welfare programs were created.

Country Absolute poverty rate (1960–1991)

(threshold set at 40% of U.S. median household


Relative poverty rate


Pre-welfare Post-welfare Prewelfare


Sweden 23.7 5.8 14.8 4.8

Norway 9.2 1.7 12.4 4.0

Netherlands 22.1 7.3 18.5 11.5

Finland 11.9 3.7 12.4 3.1

Denmark 26.4 5.9 17.4 4.8

Germany 15.2 4.3 9.7 5.1

Switzerland 12.5 3.8 10.9 9.1

Canada 22.5 6.5 17.1 11.9

France 36.1 9.8 21.8 6.1

Belgium 26.8 6.0 19.5 4.1

Australia 23.3 11.9 16.2 9.2

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16.8 8.7 16.4 8.2


United States 21.0 11.7 17.2 15.1

Italy 30.7 14.3 19.7 9.1

A study done by Columbia University found that since the beginning of the War on

Poverty, the American poverty rate was reduced "from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent

in 2012." However Kevin Drum has criticized the study for combining elderly (in which

most of the reduction happened) with non-elderly poverty reduction which was much

less significant.

Opponents of Welfare Reducing Poverty

In the United States, members of both the Republican and Democratic Party (as well as

third parties such as the Libertarians) have favored reducing or eliminating welfare. The

landmark piece of legislation which reduced welfare was the Personal Responsibility

and Work Opportunity Act under the Clinton administration.

Conservative and libertarian groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato

Institute assert that welfare creates dependence and a disincentive to work, and reduce

the opportunity of individuals to manage their own lives. This dependence is called a

"culture of poverty" which is said to undermine people from finding meaningful work.

Many of these groups also point to the large budget used to maintain these programs

and assert that it is wasteful.

In the book Losing Ground, Charles Murray argues that welfare not only increases

poverty but also increases other problems such as single-parent households, and crime.

Some socialists and Marxists argue that welfare states and modern social democratic

policies limit the incentive system of the market by providing things such as minimum

wages, unemployment insurance, taxing profits and reducing the reserve army of labor,

resulting in capitalists having little incentive to invest; in essence, social welfare policies

cripple the capitalist system and increase poverty. By implementing public or

cooperative ownership of the means of production, some socialists believe there will be

no need for a welfare state.

Public Opinion

In 2013, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that a plurality of Americans (24

percent) said "too much government welfare that prevents initiative" was the leading

cause of poverty.

A January 2014 Pew Research poll found that 49% of Americans believe government

aid to the poor does more good than harm as people can't escape poverty until basic

needs are met, and 54% believe taxes should be increased on the wealthy and

corporations to expand anti-poverty programs.

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Criticisms of Welfare

The modern welfare state has been criticized on economic and moral grounds from all

ends of the political spectrum. Classical liberals, libertarians, and conservatives often

argue that the provision of tax-funded services or transfer payments reduces the

incentive for workers to seek employment, thereby reducing the need to work, reducing

the rewards of work, and exacerbating poverty. On the other hand, socialists typically

criticize the welfare state as championed by liberals and social democrats as an attempt

to legitimize and strengthen the capitalist economic system, which conflicts with the

socialist goal of replacing capitalism with a socialist economic system.

Classical Liberal Criticisms

Advocates of classical liberalism, economic liberalism and neoliberalism, such as

modern adherents of the Chicago school of economics faulted the New Deal version of

social insurance for creating "notches" that perverted economic incentives.

The government, Milton Friedman and others argued, told the poor: make more money

and we will take away your free housing, food stamps, and income support. People are

rational, Friedman said, so they will not work for long if they get nothing or next to

nothing for it. The big difference between the Malthusian conservative critics of social

insurance in the early nineteenth century and the Chicago critics of the 1970s is that the

Chicago critics had a point: Providing public support to the "worthy" poor, and then

removing it when they began to stand on their own feet, poisoned incentives and was

unlikely to lead to good outcomes. And so, from 1970 to 2000, a broad coalition of

conservatives (who wanted to see the government stop encouraging immorality),

centrists (who wanted government money spent effectively), and leftists (who wanted

poverty alleviated) removed the "notches" from the social-insurance system. Presidents

Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and even George W.

Bush and their supporters created the current system, in which tax rates and eligibility

thresholds are not punitive disincentives to enterprise.

Libertarian Criticisms

Libertarians criticize the welfare state because welfare programs do not work to reduce

poverty, improve education, or improve health or retirement. Also, welfare programs

increase out-of-wedlock births and decrease the incentive to work. Moreover,

libertarians believe welfare programs reduce freedom by reducing the opportunity of

individuals to manage their own lives.

Conservative Criticisms

In his 1912 book, The Servile State, English poet and social critic Hilaire Belloc, a

devout Roman Catholic, argued that capitalism was inherently unstable but that

attempts to amend its defects through ever-more burdensome regulation could only

lead to the rise of what he calls the "Servile State". According to Belloc, this servile state

resembles ancient slavery in its reliance on positive law as opposed to custom or

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economic necessity by themselves. Austrian-born economist Friedrich Hayek mentions

Belloc's Servile State favorably in his book The Road to Serfdom. Belloc, along with

others, such as G. K. Chesterton and Eric Gill, advocated abolishing profit-making

banking in favor of credit unions and replacing capitalism with a system they called

distributism, which they believed would preserve private property and revive the dignity

of work exemplified by the small craftsmen and property holder of the Middle Ages.

Some conservatives in the UK, such as James Batholomew and Theodore Dalrymple,

claim that the welfare state has produced a generation of dependents who prefer to

remain on assistance and make no real effort to find employment; even though

assistance is officially only available to those unable to work or who are temporarily

unable to find work. The welfare state in the UK was created to provide certain people

with a basic level of benefits in order to alleviate poverty, but these conservatives

believe that it has fostered irresponsible and immature attitudes in many of its


Some British conservatives, such as Conservative Party co-chairman Sayeeda Warsi,

also criticise the "'something for nothing' culture" of the welfare state, claiming that the

high extent of the welfare state "discourages the unemployed from finding jobs". 55% of

people in England and 43% of people in Scotland believe that "benefits for unemployed

people are too high and discourage them from finding jobs".

According to political scientist Alan Ryan, "Modern conservatives argue that liberalism

promises a degree of personal fulfillment that the welfare state cannot deliver and that

attempts to deliver it will inevitably lead to disillusionment." Additionally, citizens'

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esentment of paying taxes to create benefits for others creates "hostility between more

and less favored groups that is wholly at odds with what modern liberals desire."

Moreover, the welfare state must employ an extensive bureaucracy whose members

are granted discretionary powers and charged by law to use those powers for the

welfare of their clients. This means that classical liberals' concern for the rule of law and

the curtailing of arbitrary discretion is ignored: bureaucrats are given resources to

disburse to their clients ... The liberation the welfare state promises – liberation from

anxiety, poverty, and the cramped circumstances of working-class existence – is easily

obtained by the educated middle class and is impossible to achieve for most others.

There is thus a grave risk of disillusionment with liberalism in general as a result of its

failure when it overextends itself. Some writers suppose that the worldwide popularity of

conservative governments during the 1980s is explained by this consideration.

Socialist Criticisms

Critiques of the welfare state and of social welfare programs have come from various

socialist perspectives, ranging from Marxists to Anarchists. In these perspectives,

criticism of the welfare state often goes alongside criticism of the structural issues of

capitalism and the inability for social welfare measures to solve fundamental economic

issues which Marxists consider inherent to capitalism.

Initially, social insurance schemes were promoted by liberals and conservatives to

appeal to working class voters to undercut the appeal of socialism. While some socialist

parties tolerated social insurance, socialists often viewed advocacy of such programs as

antithetical to their goal of replacing capitalism with socialism.

Marxian socialists argue that modern social democratic welfare policies are unable to

solve the fundamental and structural issues of capitalism, such as cyclical fluctuations,

exploitation and alienation. Accordingly, social democratic programs intended to

ameliorate the issues of capitalism – such as unemployment benefits and taxation on

profits – create further contradictions in capitalism by limiting the efficiency of the

capitalist system by reducing incentives for capitalists to invest in further production.

Therefore, the welfare state only serves to legitimize and prolong the exploitative and

contradiction-laden system of capitalism to society's detriment.

Democratic socialists, such as the American philosopher and mathematician David

Schweickart, contrast "social democracy" with democratic socialism by defining the

former as an attempt to strengthen the welfare state and the latter as a political

movement seeking to create an alternative economic system to capitalism. According to

Schweickart, the democratic socialist critique of social democracy is that capitalism can

never be sufficiently "humanized", and any attempt to suppress the economic

contradictions of capitalism would only cause them to emerge elsewhere. For example,

attempts to reduce unemployment too much would result in inflation, while too much job

security would erode labor discipline. As socialists, democratic socialists aim to create

an alternative to capitalism. In contrast to social democracy, democratic socialists

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advocate a post-capitalist economic system based either on market socialism combined

with worker self-management, or on some form of participatory-economic planning.

Market socialism is also critical of and contrasted with social democratic welfare states.

While one common goal of both systems is to achieve greater social and economic

equality, market socialism does so by changes in enterprise ownership and

management, whereas social democracy attempts to do so by government-imposed

taxes and subsidies on privately owned enterprises to finance welfare programs. Frank

Roosevelt and David Belkin criticize social democracy for maintaining a property-owning

capitalist class, which has an active interest in reversing social democratic welfare

policies and a disproportionate amount of power as a class to influence governmental


Karl Marx famously critiqued the basic institutions of the welfare state in his Address of

the Central Committee to the Communist League by warning against the programs

advanced by liberal democrats. Specifically, he argued that measures designed to

increase wages, improve working conditions and provide welfare payments would be

used to dissuade the working class away from socialism and the revolutionary

consciousness he believed was necessary to achieve a socialist economy, and would

thus be a threat to genuine structural changes to society by making the conditions of

workers in capitalism more tolerable through welfare schemes.

Eduard Bernstein, a reformist social democrat, was skeptical of the welfare state and

social welfare legislation. While he viewed it as something helpful for the working class,

he feared that state aid to the poor might sanction a new form of "pauperism". Ultimately

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Bernstein believed that any such policies should be of secondary concern to the main

social democratic concern of tackling capitalism as the source of poverty and inequality.

The most extreme criticisms of states and governments are made by anarchists, who

advocate for the abolition of all social hierarchies; including the state. Ultimately, despite

the anti-state and anti-market views of socialist anarchism, most anarchists advocate for

the strengthening of the welfare state, arguing that social safety nets are short-term

goals for the working class. According to Noam Chomsky, "social democrats and

anarchists always agreed, fairly generally, on so-called 'welfare state measures'" and

"Anarchists propose other measures to deal with these problems, without recourse to

state authority." Some anarchists believe in stopping welfare programs only if it means

abolishing government and capitalism as well.

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V. Social Programs

in The U.S.

Social programs in the United States are welfare subsidies designed to meet needs of

the American population. Federal and state welfare programs include cash assistance,

healthcare and medical provisions, food assistance, housing subsidies, energy and

utilities subsidies, education and childcare assistance, and subsidies and assistance for

other basic services. Private provisions from employers, either mandated by policy or

voluntary, also provide similar social welfare benefits.



vary in



and are

provided by

various organizations on a federal, state, local

private level. They help to provide food,


shelter, education, healthcare and money to U.S. citizens

through primary and secondary education, subsidies of college education,

unemployment disability insurance, subsidies for eligible low-wage workers, subsidies

for housing, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, pensions for eligible

persons and health insurance programs that cover public employees. The Social

Security system is sometimes considered to be a social aid program and has some

characteristics of such programs, but unlike these programs, social security was

designed as a self-funded security blanket—so that as the payee pays in (during

working years), they are pre-paying for the payments they'll receive back out of the

system when they are no longer working. Medicare is another prominent program,

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among other healthcare provisions such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health

Insurance Program.

Congressional Funding

Not including Social Security and Medicare, Congress allocated almost $717 billion in

federal funds in 2010 plus $210 billion was allocated in state funds ($927 billion total) for

means tested welfare programs in the United States, of which half was for medical care

and roughly 40% for cash, food and housing assistance. Some of these programs

include funding for public schools, job training, SSI benefits and medicaid. As of 2011,

the public social spending-to-GDP ratio in the United States was below

the OECD average. Roughly half of this welfare assistance, or $462 billion went to

families with children, most of which are headed by single parents.

Total Social Security and Medicare expenditures in 2013 were $1.3 trillion, 8.4% of the

$16.3 trillion GNP (2013) and 37% of the total Federal expenditure budget of $3.684


In addition to government expenditures, private welfare spending, i.e. social insurance

programs provided to workers by employers, in the United States is estimated to be

about 10% of the U.S. GDP or another $1.6 trillion, according to 2013 OECD

estimates. In 2001, Jacob Hacker estimated that public and private social welfare

expenditures constituted 21% and 13-14% of the United States' GDP respectively. In

these estimates of private social welfare expenditures, Hacker included mandatory

private provisions (less than 1% of GDP), subsidized and/or regulated private provisions

(9-10% of GDP), and purely private provisions (3-4% of GDP).

Federal Welfare Programs


Colonial legislatures and later State governments adopted legislation patterned after the

English "poor" laws. Aid to veterans, often free grants of land, and pensions for widows

and handicapped veterans, have been offered in all U.S. wars. Following World War I,

provisions were made for a full-scale system of hospital and medical care benefits for

veterans. By 1929, workers' compensation laws were in effect in all but four States.

These state laws made industry and businesses responsible for the costs of

compensating workers or their survivors when the worker was injured or killed in

connection with his or her job. Retirement programs for mainly State and local

government paid teachers, police officers, and fire fighters—date back to the 19th

century. All these social programs were far from universal and varied considerably from

one state to another.

Prior to the Great Depression the United States had social programs that mostly

centered around individual efforts, family efforts, church charities, business workers

compensation, life insurance and sick leave programs along with some state tax

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supported social programs. The misery and poverty of the great depression threatened

to overwhelm all these programs. The severe Depression of the 1930s made Federal

action almost a necessity, as neither the States and the local communities, businesses

and industries, nor private charities had the financial resources to cope with the growing

need among the American people. Beginning in 1932, the Federal Government first

made loans, then grants, to States to pay for direct relief and work relief. After that,

special Federal emergency relief like the Civilian Conservation Corps and other public

works programs were started. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration

proposed to Congress federal social relief programs and a federally sponsored

retirement program. Congress followed by the passage of the 37 page Social Security

Act, signed into law August 14, 1935 and "effective" by 1939—just as World War

II began. This program was expanded several times over the years.

Economic historians led by Price Fishback have examined the impact of New Deal

spending on improving health conditions in the 114 largest cities, 1929–1937. They

estimated that every additional $153,000 in relief spending (in 1935 dollars, or $2.2

million in 2016 dollars) was associated with a reduction of one infant death, one suicide,

and 2.4 deaths from infectious disease.

War On Poverty and Great Society Programs (1960s)

Virtually all food stamp costs are paid by the federal government. In 2008, 28.7 percent

of the households headed by single women were considered poor.

Welfare Reform (1990s)

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Before the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, welfare assistance was "once considered an

open-ended right," but welfare reform converted it "into a finite program built to provide

short-term cash assistance and steer people quickly into jobs." Prior to reform, states

were given "limitless" money by the federal government, increasing per family on

welfare, under the 60-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)

program. This gave states no incentive to direct welfare funds to the neediest recipients

or to encourage individuals to go off welfare benefits (the state lost federal money when

someone left the system). Nationwide, one child in seven received AFDC funds, which

mostly went to single mothers.

In 1996, under the Bill Clinton administration, Congress passed the Personal

Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which gave more control of the

welfare system to the states, with basic requirements the states need to meet with

regards to welfare services. Still, most states offer basic assistance, such as health

care, food assistance, child care assistance, unemployment, cash aid, and housing

assistance. After reforms, which President Clinton said would "end welfare as we know

it," amounts from the federal government were given out in a flat rate per state based

on population.

Each state must meet certain criteria to ensure recipients are being encouraged to work

themselves out of welfare. The new program is called Temporary Assistance for Needy

Families (TANF). It encourages states to require some sort of employment search in

exchange for providing funds to individuals, and imposes a five-year lifetime limit on

cash assistance. The bill restricts welfare from most legal immigrants and increased

financial assistance for child care. The federal government also maintains a contingency

$2 billion TANF fund (TANF CF) to assist states that may have rising

unemployment. The new TANF program expired on September 30, 2010, on schedule

with states drawing down the entire original emergency fund of $5 billion and the

contingency fund of $2 billion allocated by ARRA. Reauthorization of TANF was not

accomplished in 2011, but TANF block grants were extended as part of the Claims

Resolution Act of 2010 (see Temporary Aid for Needy Families for details).

Following these changes, millions of people left the welfare rolls (a 60% drop

overall), employment rose, and the child poverty rate was reduced. A

2007 Congressional Budget Office study found that incomes in affected families rose by

35%. The reforms were "widely applauded" after "bitter protest." The Times called the

reform "one of the few undisputed triumphs of American government in the past 20

years." However, more recent studies have found that the reforms increased deep

poverty by 130-150%.

Critics of the reforms sometimes point out that the massive decrease of people on the

welfare rolls during the 1990s wasn't due to a rise in actual gainful employment in this

population, but rather, was due almost exclusively to their offloading into workfare,

giving them a different classification than classic welfare recipient. The late 1990s were

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also considered an unusually strong economic time, and critics voiced their concern

about what would happen in an economic downturn.

National Review editorialized that the Economic Stimulus Act of 2009 will reverse

the welfare-to-work provisions that Bill Clinton signed in the 1990s, and will again base

federal grants to states on the number of people signed up for welfare rather than at a

flat rate. One of the experts who worked on the 1996 bill said that the provisions would

lead to the largest one-year increase in welfare spending in American

history. The House bill provides $4 billion to pay 80% of states' welfare

caseloads. Although each state received $16.5 billion annually from the federal

government as welfare rolls dropped, they spent the rest of the block grant on other

types of assistance rather than

saving it for worse economic



The following is a short timeline

of welfare in the United States:

1880s–1890s: Attempts were

made to move poor people from

work yards to poor houses if

they were in search of relief


1893–1894: Attempts were

made at the first unemployment

payments, but were

unsuccessful due to the 1893–

1894 recession.



Spending on largest Welfare Programs

Federal Spending 2003-2013 *

1932: The Great Depression had gotten worse and the first attempts to fund relief failed.

The "Emergency Relief Act", which gave local governments $300 million, was passed

into law.

1933: In March 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed Congress to establish

the Civilian Conservation Corps.

1935: The Social Security Act was passed on June 17, 1935. The bill included direct

relief (cash, food stamps, etc.) and changes for unemployment insurance.

1940: Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) was established.


2003 *


2013 *

Medicaid Grants to States $201,389 $266,565

Food Stamps (SNAP) 61,717 82,603

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) 40,027 55,123

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 38,315 50,544

Housing assistance 37,205 49,739

Child Nutrition Program (CHIP) 13,558 20,842

Support Payments to States, TANF 28,980 20,842

Feeding Programs (WIC & CSFP) 5,695 6,671

Low Income Home Energy Assistance 2,542 3,704

* Spending in millions of dollars

1964: Johnson's War on Poverty is underway, and the Economic Opportunity Act was

passed. Commonly known as "the Great Society"

Page 77 of 134

1996: Passed under Clinton, the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity

Reconciliation Act of 1996" becomes law.

2013: Affordable Care Act goes into effect with large increases in Medicaid and

subsidized medical insurance premiums go into effect.



79 Means Tested Programs in U.S. (2011)





Spending * Spending * Spending *

TOTAL cost in (billions) (2011) $717 $210 $927

Social Security OASDI (2013) $785

Medicare(2013) $574

TOTAL all programs (billions) $2,286


SSI/Old Age Assistance 56,462.00 4,673.00 61,135.00

Earned Income Tax Credit (refundable portion) 55,652.00 55,652.00

Refundable Child Credit 22,691.00 22,691.00

Make Work Pay Tax Credit (Refundable Portion) 13,905.00 13,905.00

Temporary Assistance for Needy

Families (TANF, old AFDC)

6,882.89 6,876.86 13,759.74

Foster Care Title IVE 4,456.00 3,921.28 8,377.28

Adoption Assistance Title IVE 2,362.00 1,316 3,678.00

General Assistance Cash 2,625.00 2,625.00

Refugee Assistance 167.86 167.86

General Assistance to Indians 115.00 115.00

Assets for Independence 24.00 24.00

CASH TOTAL 162,717.75 19,412.14 182,129.88


Medicaid 274,964.00 157,600.00 432,564.00

SCHIP State Supplemental Health Insurance


8,629.00 3,796.76 12,425.76

Medical General Assistance 6,965.90 6,965.90

Consolidated Health Center/Community Health


1,481.00 1,481.00

Maternal & Child Health 656.00 492.00 1,148.00

Medical Assistance to Refugees 167.86 167.86

Healthy Start 104.00 104.00

MEDICAL TOTAL 289,816.86 168,854.66 458,671.52


Food Stamps, SNAP 77,637.00 6,987.33 84,624.33

School Lunch Program 10,321.00 10,321.00

WIC Women, Infant and Children Food Program 6,787.00 6,787.00

School Breakfast 3,076.00 3,076.00

Child Care Food Program 2,732.00 2,732.00

Nutrition Program for the Elderly, Nutrition

Service Incentives

820.00 139.40 959.40

Summer Program 376.00 376.00

Commodity Supplemental Food Program 196.00 196.00

Page 78 of 134

TEFAP Temporary Emergency Food Program 247.00 247.00

Needy Families 60.00 60.00

Farmers' Market Nutrition Program 23.00 23.00

Special Milk Program 13.00 13.00

FOOD TOTAL 102,288.00 7,126.73 109,414.73


Section 8 Housing (HUD) 28,435.00 28,435.00

Public Housing (HUD) 8,973.00 8,973.00

Low Income Housing Tax Credit for Developers 6,150.00 6,150.00

Home Investment Partnership Program (HUD) 2,853.00 2,853.00

Homeless Assistance Grants (HUD) 2,280.00 2,280.00

State Housing Expenditures (from SWE) 2,085.00 2,085.00

Rural Housing Insurance Fund (Agriculture) 1,689.00 1,689.00

Rural Housing Service (Agriculture) 1,085.00 1,085.00

Housing for the Elderly (HUD) 934.00 934.00

Native American Housing Block Grants (HUD) 854.00 854.00

Other Assisted Housing Programs (HUD) 496.00 496.00

Housing for Persons with Disabilities (HUD) 309.00 309.00

HOUSING TOTAL 54,058.00 2,085.00 56,143.00


LIHEAP Low Income Home Energy Assistance 4,419.00 4,419.00

Universal Service Fund Subsidized Low Income

1,750.00 1,750.00

Phone Service

Weatherization 234.00 234.00



Pell Grants 41,458.00 41,458.00

Title One Grants to Local Education Authorities 14,472.00 14,472.00

21st Century Learning Centers 1,157.00 1,157.00

Special Programs for Disadvantaged (TRIO) 883.00 883.00

Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants 740.00 740.00

Adult Basic Education Grants 607.00 607.00

Migrant Education 444.00 444.00

Gear-Up 303.00 303.00


Formerly State Student Incentive Grant Program


1.00 1.00

Education for Homeless Children and Youth 65.00 65.00

Even Start 4.00 4.00

Aid for Graduate and Professional Study for

41.00 41.00

Disadvantaged and Minorities

EDUCATION TOTAL 60,175.00 60,175.00


TANF Work Activities and Training 2,504.90 831.93 3,336.83

Job Corps 1,659.00 1,659.00

WIA Youth Opportunity Grants

Formerly Summer Youth Employment

946.00 946.00

Senior Community Service Employment 705.00 77.55 782.55

WIA Adult Employment and Training

Formerly JTPA IIA Training for Disadvantaged

Adults & Youth

766.00 766.00

Food Stamp Employment and Training Program 393.00 166.00 559.00

Foster Grandparents 104.00 10.40 114.40

YouthBuild 110.00 110.00

Page 79 of 134

Migrant Training 85.00 85.00

Native American Training 52.00 52.00

TRAINING TOTAL 7,324.90 1,085.88 8,410.78


TANF Block Grant Services 5,385.12 4,838.13 10,223.25

Title XX Social Services Block Grant 1,787.00 1,787.00

Community Service Block Grant 678.00 678.00

Social Services for Refugees Asylees and

Humanitarian Cases

417.28 417.28

Safe and Stable Families 553.00 553.00

Title III Aging Americans Act 369.00 369.00

Legal Services Block Grant 406.00 406.00

Family Planning 298.00 298.00

Emergency Food and Shelter Program 48.00 48.00

Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood


50.00 150.00

Independent Living (Chafee Foster Care

Independence Program)

140.00 28.00 168.00

Independent Living Training Vouchers 45.00 45.00

Maternal, Infants and Children Home Visitation 36.00 36.00

SERVICES TOTAL 10,411.40 4,866.13 15,277.53


Headstart 7,559.0 1,889.75 9,448.75

Childcare and Child Development Block Grant 2,984 2,176.00 5,160.00

Childcare Entitlement to the States 3,100.00 3,100.00

TANF Block Grant Child Care 2,318.56 2,643.78 4,962.35

CHILD CARE & CHILD DEVELOPMENT TOTAL 15,961.56 6,709.53 22,671.10


Community Development Block Grant and

Related Development Funds

7,445.00 7,445.00

Economic Development Administration (Dept. of


423.00 423.00

Appalachian Regional Development 68.00 68.00

Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities


1.00 1.00


TOTAL in millions (2011) $717,093.48 $210,140.07 $927,233.55

Social Security OASDI (2013) $785,700

Medicare (2013) $574,200

TOTAL in millions $2,287,133

* Spending in millions of dollars

2.3 Trillion Dollar Total of Social Security, Medicare and Means Tested Welfare is low

since latest 2013 means tested data not available but 2013, the "real" TOTAL will be


Social Security

The Social Security program mainly refers to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability

Insurance (OASDI) program, and possibly the unemployment insurance

program. Retirement Insurance Benefits (RIB), also known as Old-age Insurance

Page 80 of 134

Benefits, are a form of social insurance payments made by the U.S. Social Security

Administration paid based upon the attainment old age (62 or older).

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI) is a federal insurance program that

provides income supplements to people who are restricted in their ability to

be employed because of a notable disability.

Unemployment insurance, also known as unemployment compensation, provides for

money, from the United States and the state collected from employers, to workers who

have become unemployed through no fault of their own. The unemployment benefits

are run by each state with different state defined criteria for duration, percent of income

paid, etc.. Nearly all require the recipient to document their search for employment to

continue receiving benefits. Extensions of time for receiving benefits are sometimes

offered for extensive work unemployment. These extra benefits are usually in the form

of loans from the federal government that have to be repaid by each state.

General Welfare

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides stipends to low-income

people who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled.

Page 81 of 134

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides cash assistance to

indigent American families with dependent children.

Healthcare Spending

Health care in the United States is provided by many separate legal entities. Health care

facilities are largely owned and operated by the private sector. Health insurance in the

United States is now primarily provided by the government in the public sector, with 60–

65% of healthcare provision and spending coming from programs such as

Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and

the Veterans Health Administration. Having some form of comprehensive health

insurance is statutorily compulsory for most people lawfully residing within the US.

Medicare is a social insurance program administered by the United States government,

providing health insurance coverage to people who are aged 65 and over; to those who

are under 65 and are permanently physically disabled or who have a congenital

physical disability; or to those who meet other special criteria like the End Stage Renal

Disease Program (ESRD). Medicare in the United States somewhat resembles a singlepayer

health care system but is not. Before Medicare, only 51% of people aged 65 and

older had health care coverage, and nearly 30% lived below the federal poverty level.

Medicaid is a health program for certain people and families with low incomes and

resources. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal

governments, and is managed by the states. People served by Medicaid are U.S.

citizens or legal permanent residents, including low-income adults, their children, and

people with certain disabilities. Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and

health-related services for people with limited income in the United States.

The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a program administered by

the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides matching

funds to states for health insurance to families with children. The program was designed

to cover uninsured children in families with incomes that are modest but too high to

qualify for Medicaid.

The Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services Block Grant (or ADMS Block

Grant) is a federal assistance block grant given by the United States Department of

Health and Human Services.

The Trump administration has decided to cut $9 million in Affordable Care Act subsidies

by 2018. This action was taken by use of executive order 13813, on October 12,

2017. The initial goal had been for Republicans in Congress to use their majority to

"repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act, but they proved unable to do so;

therefore, the Trump administration itself took measures to weaken the program. The

healthcare changes are expected to be noticeable by the year 2019.

Education Spending

Page 82 of 134

Per capita spending on tertiary education is among the highest in the world. Public

education is managed by individual states, municipalities and regional school districts.

As in all developed countries, primary and secondary education is free, universal and

mandatory. Parents do have the option of home-schooling their children, though some

states, such as California (until a 2008 legal ruling overturned this requirement), require

parents to obtain teaching credentials before doing so. Experimental programs give

lower-income parents the option of using government issued vouchers to send their kids

to private rather than public schools in some states/regions.

As of 2007, more than 80% of all primary and secondary students were enrolled in

public schools, including 75% of those from households with incomes in the top 5%.

Public schools commonly offer after-school programs and the government subsidizes

Page 83 of 134

private after school programs, such as the Boys & Girls Club. While pre-school

education is subsidized as well, through programs such as Head Start, many Americans

still find themselves unable to take advantage of them. Some education critics have

therefore proposed creating a comprehensive transfer system to make pre-school

education universal, pointing out that the financial returns alone would compensate for

the cost.

Tertiary education is not free, but is subsidized by individual states and the federal

government. Some of the costs at public institutions is carried by the state.

The government also provides grants, scholarships and subsidized loans to most

students. Those who do not qualify for any type of aid, can obtain a government

guaranteed loan and tuition can often be deducted from the federal income tax. Despite

subsidized attendance cost at public institutions and tax deductions, however, tuition

costs have risen at three times the rate of median household income since 1982. In fear

that many future Americans might be excluded from tertiary education, progressive

Democrats have proposed increasing financial aid and subsidizing an increased share

of attendance costs. Some Democratic politicians and political groups have also

proposed to make public tertiary education free of charge, i.e. subsidizing 100% of

attendance cost.

Food Assistance

In the U.S., financial assistance for food purchasing for low- and no-income people is

provided through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly

known as the Food Stamp Program. This federal aid program is administered by

the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but benefits are

distributed by the individual U.S. states. It is historically and commonly known as the

Food Stamp Program, though all legal references to "stamp" and "coupon" have been

replaced by "EBT" and "card," referring to the refillable, plastic Electronic Benefit

Transfer (EBT) cards that replaced the paper "food stamp" coupons. To be eligible for

SNAP benefits, the recipients must have incomes below 130 percent of the poverty line,

and also own few assets. Since the economic downturn began in 2008, the use of food

stamps has increased.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is

a child nutrition program for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women,

breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five. The eligibility

requirement is a family income below 185% of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines, but

if a person participates in other benefit programs, or has family members who

participate in SNAP, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, they

automatically meet the eligibility requirements.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a type of United States federal

assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to states in order to

Page 84 of 134

provide a daily subsidized food service for an estimated 3.2 million children and 112,000

elderly or mentally or physically impaired adults in non-residential, day-care settings.

Public Housing

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 created Section 8 housing, the

payment of rent assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households.


According to the Congressional Budget Office, social programs significantly raise the

standard of living for low-income Americans, particularly the elderly. The poorest 20% of

American households earn a before-tax average of only $7,600, less than half of the

federal poverty line. Social programs increase such households' before-tax income to

$30,500. Social Security and Medicare are responsible for two thirds of that increase.

Political scientist Benjamin Radcliff has argued that more generous social programs

produce a higher quality of life for all citizens, rich and poor alike, as such programs not

only improve life for those directly receiving benefits (or living in fear of someday

needing them, from the prospect of unemployment or illness) but also reduce the social

pathologies (such as crime and anomie) that are the result of poverty and insecurity. By

creating a society with less poverty and less insecurity, he argues, we move closer to

creating a nation of shared prosperity that works to the advantage of all. Thus, his

research suggests, life satisfaction (or "happiness") is strongly related to the generosity

of the social safety net (what economists often call decommodification), whether looking

across the industrial democracies or across the American states.

Cato Institute says: The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits

that it acts as a disincentive for work.

Average Incomes and Taxes

CBO Study 2009 *

Households Market Federal Income + Avg Federal Federal % Federal #W 6 % Net

by Income Income 1 Transfers 2 Transfers Tax rate % 3 Taxes $ 4 Taxes Pd. 5 Income 7

0-20% 7,600 22,900 30,500 1.0 200 0.3 0.42 6.2

21-40% 30,100 14,800 45,000 6.8 2,900 3.8 0.90 11.1

41-60% 54,200 10,400 64,600 11.1 7,200 9.4 1.29 15.8

61-80% 86,400 7,100 93,500 15.1 14,100 18.3 1.70 21.6

80-100% 218,800 6,000 224,800 23.2 51,900 67.9 1.97 47.2

Source: Congressional Budget Office Study

1. Market Income = All wages, tips, incomes etc. as listed on Income tax form

2. Federal Transfers = all EITC, CTC, medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), Social Security, SSI etc. received

3. Average tax rate includes all Social Security, Medicare, income, business income, excise, etc. taxes.

4. Net Federal taxes paid in dollars

5. Percent of all federal taxes paid

6. #W = Average number of workers per household in this quintile

7. % Net Income = percentage of all national income each quintile receives after taxes and transfers.

Page 85 of 134

Characteristics of Households by Quintile 2010

Household Income


0-20% 21-40% 41-60% 61-80% 81-100%

Earners Per Household 0.42 0.90 1.29 1.70 1.97

Marital Status

Married couples (%) 17.0 35.9 48.8 64.3 78.4

Single Parents or Single (%) 83.0 64.1 51.2 35.7 21.6

Ages of Householders

Under 35 23.3 24 24.5 21.8 14.6

36–64 years 43.6 46.6 55.4 64.3 74.7

65 years + 33.1 29.4 20.1 13.9 10.7

Work Status householders (%)

Worked Full Time (%) 17.4 44.7 61.1 71.5 77.2

Worked Part Time (%) 14.3 13.3 11.1 9.8 9.5

Did Not Work (%) 68.2 42.1 27.8 17.7 13.3

Education of Householders (%)

Less than High School 26.7 16.6 8.8 5.4 2.2

High School or some College 61.2 65.4 62.9 58.5 37.6

Bachelor's degree or Higher 12.1 18.0 28.3 36.1 60.3

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


Social programs have been implemented to promote a variety of societal goals,

including alleviating the effects of poverty on those earning or receiving low income or

encountering serious medical problems, and ensuring retired people have a basic

standard of living.

Unlike in Europe, Christian democratic and social democratic theories have not played a

major role in shaping welfare policy in the United States. Entitlement programs in the

U.S. were virtually non-existent until the administration of Franklin Delano

Roosevelt and the implementation of the New Deal programs in response to the Great

Depression. Between 1932 and 1981, modern American liberalism dominated U.S.

economic policy and the entitlements grew along with American middle class wealth.

Eligibility for welfare benefits depends on a variety of factors, including gross and net

income, family size, pregnancy, homelessness, unemployment, and serious medical

conditions like blindness, kidney failure or AIDS.

Page 86 of 134

Drug Testing for Applicants

The United States adopted the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act in

1996, which gave individual states the authority to drug test welfare recipients. Drug

testing in order for potential recipients to receive welfare has become an increasingly

controversial topic. Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina claims he

pushes for drug screening as a matter of "moral obligation" and that testing should be

enforced as a way for the United States government to discourage drug usage. Others

claim that ordering the needy to drug test "stereotypes, stigmatizes, and criminalizes"

them without need. States that currently require drug tests to be performed in order to

receive public assistance include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma,

Tennessee, and Utah.

Demographics of TANF Recipients

A chart showing the overall decline of average monthly TANF (formerly AFDC) benefits

per recipient 1962–2006 (in 2006 dollars).

Page 87 of 134

Some have argued that welfare has come to be associated with poverty. Political

scientist Martin Gilens argues that blacks have overwhelmingly dominated images of

poverty over the last few decades and states that "white Americans with the most

exaggerated misunderstandings of the racial composition of the poor are the most likely

to oppose welfare". This perception possibly perpetuates negative racial

stereotypes and could increase Americans' opposition and racialization of welfare


In FY 2010, African-American families comprised 31.9% of TANF families,

white families comprised 31.8%, and 30.0% were Hispanic. Since the implementation of

TANF, the percentage of Hispanic families has increased, while the percentages of

white and black families have decreased. In FY 1997, African-American families

represented 37.3% of TANF recipient families, white families 34.5%, and Hispanic

families 22.5%.The population as a whole is composed of 63.7% whites, 16.3%

Hispanic, 12.5% African-American, 4.8% Asian and 2.9% other races. TANF programs

at a cost of about $20.0 billion (2013) have decreased in use as Earned Income Tax

Credits, Medicaid grants, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits,

Supplemental Security Income (SSI), child nutrition programs, Children's Health

Insurance Program (CHIP), housing assistance, Feeding Programs (WIC & CSFP),

along with about 70 more programs, have increased to over $700 billion more in 2013.


The Great Recession made a large impact on welfare spending. In a 2011

article, Forbes reported, "The best estimate of the cost of the 185 federal means tested

welfare programs for 2010 for the federal government alone is $717 billion, up a third

since 2008, according to the Heritage Foundation. Counting state spending of about

$210 billion, total welfare spending for 2010 reached over $920 billion, up nearly onefourth

since 2008 (24.3%)"—and increasing fast.

The previous decade had seen a 60% decrease in the number of people receiving

welfare benefits, beginning with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work

Opportunity Act, but spending did not decrease proportionally during that time period.

Combined annual federal and state spending is the equivalent of over $21,000 for every

person living below poverty level in America.

Page 88 of 134

VI. U.S. Cities with

The Highest Poverty Rates

According to the United States Census Bureau the following are the places in the United

States with the lowest per capita or median household income. Locations with

populations from the 2010 census are ranked by median household income as

surveyed between 2008 and 2012. For comparison, locations are next listed with

populations per capita income from the 2000 census. The most sizable community in

2000 (with a population of 13,138) was Kiryas Joel, New York which had a per capita

income of just $4,355. In terms of geographic size, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and

the adjacent Rosebud Indian Reservation (Lakota Sioux Reservations, South Dakota)

have long been among the lowest income areas in the United States. Three of the

lowest ten per capita income locations in the U.S. are on these two reservations, which

constitute the three largest populations in the bottom ten locations.

Note: This list does not include unincorporated territories of the United States.

Locations over 1,000 population (2008-12 American Community Survey)[edit]

The data below are for annual median household income, based on 2008–

2012 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and with

populations from the 2010 U.S. Census. Only places with a population over 1,000 are

included, as data on locations with small populations often has a very high margin of


For comparison, the median household income for the United States is $53,046.

Rank Place State Popul.



Median White Black API Native Latino



1 Blackwater AZ 1,062 $9,491 2.3% 0.5% 0.1% 72.1% 22.1%

2 Muniz TX 1,106 $11,711 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 99.8%

3 Wolf Point MT 1,307 $12,361 42.5% 1.0% 0.1% 50.5% 1.5%

4 University Park NM 4,192 $12,788 42.0% 4.0% 6.5% 4.5% 39.6%

5 Tchula MS 2,096 $12,806 1.6% 96.7% 0.2% 0.0% 1.1%

6 Jamestown TN 1,959 $13,060 95.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.7% 2.7%

7 Yanceyville NC 2,039 $13,505 38.2% 54.0% 0.5% 0.4% 3.6%

8 Campti LA 1,056 $13,693 26.9% 69.9% 0.2% 0.4% 0.8%

9 Cullen LA 1,163 $13,711 12.7% 85.3% 0.2% 0.0% 1.1%

10 Sneedville TN 1,387 $13,719 97.1% 0.6% 0.1% 0.3% 0.3%

11 Las Palmas-Juarez TX 1,605 $13,750 4.8% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0% 95.0%

12 Melville LA 1,041 $14,328 45.0% 51.9% 0.2% 0.2% 1.8%

13 Clarks LA 1,017 $14,479 50.8% 46.2% 0.3% 0.2% 1.9%

14 Meigs GA 1,035 $14,583 28.5% 64.0% 0.0% 0.1% 6.3%

15 Ferriday LA 3,511 $14,662 15.4% 83.3% 0.3% 0.2% 0.3%

16 Morgantown KY 2,394 $14,916 89.0% 0.6% 0.3% 0.0% 9.5%

17 Unionville GA 1,845 $15,186 0.9% 95.8% 0.1% 0.3% 2.2%

Page 89 of 134

18 Cibecue AZ 1,713 $15,208 0.8% 0.1% 1.7% 95.2% 1.9%

19 Lumber City GA 1,328 $15,363 47.6% 51.0% 0.0% 0.1% 1.1%

20 Munfordville KY 1,615 $15,519 84.5% 11.8% 0.6% 0.1% 1.4%

21 Columbus NM 1,664 $15,583 11.8% 0.1% 0.0% 0.8% 85.9%

22 Rosedale MS 1,873 $15,789 12.7% 86.5% 0.1% 0.1% 0.2%

23 Vanceburg KY 1,518 $16,067 97.8% 0.3% 0.0% 0.4% 0.5%

24 Brooksville MS 1,223 $16,071 15.5% 82.5% 0.1% 0.1% 1.0%

25 Bishopville SC 3,471 $16,103 26.0% 70.9% 0.8% 0.3% 1.2%

26 Shelby MS 2,229 $16,322 4.7% 94.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.8%

27 Pine Knot KY 1,621 $16,432 91.3% 4.9% 0.2% 0.7% 1.4%

28 Boone NC 17,122 $16,447 89.9% 3.4% 1.5% 0.2% 3.3%

29 Niland CA 1,006 $16,458 29.7% 2.8% 2.0% 1.8% 61.4%

30 Olmito TX 1,210 $16,507 3.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.6% 95.8%

31 South Henderson NC 1,213 $16,559 30.9% 49.2% 0.3% 0.0% 18.2%

32 Roberta GA 1,007 $16,587 50.3% 43.7% 1.5% 0.0% 3.1%

33 Mosses AL 1,029 $16,713 1.5% 96.7% 0.0% 0.0% 1.8%

34 Fort Gaines GA 1,107 $16,726 24.1% 74.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.3%

35 Banks Springs LA 1,192 $16,727 42.9% 52.8% 0.8% 0.1% 1.8%

36 Livingston AL 3,485 $16,736 34.4% 63.8% 0.3% 0.1% 0.7%

37 Pirtleville AZ 1,744 $16,914 3.6% 0.3% 0.2% 0.5% 95.3%

38 Fairfax SC 2,025 $16,976 19.1% 78.6% 0.6% 0.1% 1.5%

39 Cairo IL 2,831 $16,977 27.4% 69.6% 0.4% 0.2% 0.4%

40 Fayette MS 1,614 $17,083 1.6% 97.7% 0.0% 0.2% 0.2%

41 Century FL 1,698 $17,188 39.4% 55.8% 0.5% 0.4% 1.1%

42 Hughes AR 1,441 $17,212 23.4% 74.2% 0.6% 0.2% 1.1%

43 City View SC 1,345 $17,212 37.4% 27.6% 0.4% 0.2% 33.4%

44 Calwa CA 2,052 $17,228 4.5% 1.1% 2.2% 1.3% 90.1%

45 Roscommon MI 1,075 $17,321 95.5% 0.3% 0.8% 0.7% 0.2%

46 Harlem FL 2,658 $17,361 0.9% 95.5% 0.0% 0.2% 3.0%

47 Shaw MS 1,952 $17,391 6.4% 93.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.3%

48 Statenville GA 1,040 $17,483 53.8% 11.6% 1.0% 2.1% 29.2%

49 Luxora AR 1,178 $17,614 33.1% 60.8% 0.0% 0.5% 4.6%

50 Ola AR 1,281 $17,614 79.1% 0.5% 0.5% 0.9% 18.0%

51 Baldwin MI 1,208 $17,621 61.7% 27.9% 0.1% 0.7% 4.9%

52 Parkin AR 1,105 $17,721 27.5% 69.4% 0.0% 0.6% 1.1%

53 Carbondale IL 25,902 $17,743 60.1% 25.3% 5.7% 0.3% 5.4%

54 Annville KY 1,095 $17,750 97.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1% 1.6%

55 Mansfield MO 1,296 $17,750 96.9% 0.6% 0.5% 0.3% 0.9%

56 Benton Harbor MI 10,038 $17,766 6.4% 88.7% 0.1% 0.3% 2.2%

57 Cullowhee NC 6,228 $17,775 84.6% 7.0% 1.2% 0.7% 5.1%

58 Brookdale SC 4,873 $17,839 0.7% 97.5% 0.2% 0.1% 0.7%

59 New Boston OH 2,272 $17,875 95.5% 1.1% 0.3% 0.1% 0.9%

60 Elizabethtown NC 3,583 $18,010 42.6% 50.7% 0.7% 0.4% 4.1%

61 Belhaven NC 1,688 $18,179 37.6% 55.1% 0.5% 0.5% 5.0%

62 Clay City KY 1,077 $18,205 96.6% 0.0% 0.5% 0.1% 2.0%

63 Pembroke NC 2,973 $18,220 15.8% 12.2% 0.8% 65.7% 2.2%

64 Clarksville TX 3,285 $18,232 40.2% 47.7% 0.4% 0.4% 9.6%

65 Sunflower MS 1,159 $18,299 12.0% 86.3% 0.0% 0.0% 1.6%

66 Reform AL 1,702 $18,313 50.4% 47.9% 0.0% 0.1% 0.9%

67 Waldo AR 1,372 $18,348 30.3% 67.2% 0.1% 0.1% 1.2%

68 Macon MS 2,768 $18,367 21.7% 77.0% 0.5% 0.1% 0.5%

69 Athens OH 23,832 $18,428 84.7% 4.3% 6.1% 0.1% 2.4%

70 Eudora AR 2,269 $18,438 9.1% 89.3% 0.0% 0.4% 1.0%

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71 Medina TX 3,935 $18,446 2.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 97.7%

72 Alorton IL 2,002 $18,495 0.9% 97.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.2%

73 Breckinridge KY 2,080 $18,536 50.0% 43.2% 1.3% 0.5% 4.0%


74 Goodman MS 1,386 $18,603 23.7% 74.2% 0.1% 0.1% 1.2%

75 Metcalfe MS 1,067 $18,625 3.4% 94.9% 0.1% 0.0% 1.0%

76 Lambert MS 1,638 $18,676 11.0% 88.3% 0.0% 0.1% 0.4%

77 Sebastian TX 1,917 $18,684 5.0% 0.3% 0.0% 0.1% 94.6%

78 Hayti MO 2,939 $18,712 51.9% 45.1% 0.3% 0.2% 1.0%

79 Shackelford CA 3,371 $18,764 16.3% 0.5% 1.4% 0.6% 79.6%

80 Rankin PA 2,122 $18,779 18.0% 76.8% 0.1% 0.3% 1.0%

81 Dermott AR 2,316 $18,795 20.1% 77.1% 0.7% 0.1% 1.0%

82 Celina TN 1,495 $18,830 94.5% 1.0% 0.1% 0.1% 3.1%

83 Aliceville AL 2,486 $18,847 22.6% 74.3% 0.0% 0.1% 1.2%

84 Maxton NC 2,426 $18,848 18.4% 65.0% 0.1% 13.6% 1.8%

85 Alto TX 1,225 $18,854 52.7% 24.7% 0.0% 0.0% 20.9%

86 Falfurrias TX 4,981 $18,884 7.0% 0.2% 0.3% 0.2% 92.0%

87 Citrus City TX 2,321 $18,925 12.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 87.3%

88 East Spencer NC 1,534 $18,942 11.3% 83.3% 0.0% 0.2% 2.4%

89 Lumberton MS 2,086 $18,950 42.1% 56.2% 0.0% 0.1% 1.5%

90 Renovo PA 1,228 $19,009 96.8% 0.1% 0.0% 0.1% 1.1%

91 Kentwood LA 2,198 $19,013 26.6% 71.7% 0.3% 0.1% 0.9%

92 Vado NM 3,194 $19,031 3.9% 0.4% 0.0% 0.2% 95.5%

93 Benton Heights MI 4,084 $19,033 27.2% 61.5% 0.1% 0.5% 8.1%

94 Wolfhurst OH 1,239 $19,067 93.9% 3.5% 0.4% 0.0% 0.2%

95 San Augustine TX 2,108 $19,067 36.4% 51.8% 0.4% 0.0% 10.5%

96 La Grulla TX 1,622 $19,094 1.8% 0.0% 0.0% 0.1% 98.1%

97 Reynolds Heights PA 2,061 $19,132 96.1% 1.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.7%

98 Houck AZ 1,024 $19,138 1.2% 0.0% 0.1% 95.2% 2.0%

99 Biola CA 1,623 $19,167 5.5% 0.4% 19.3% 0.6% 73.7%

100 Mamou LA 3,242 $19,172 53.9% 42.8% 0.2% 0.2% 1.4%

Out of these 100 places, 30 are majority white, 47 are majority Black, 4 are majority

Native American, and 15 are majority Latino. Of these 100 places, 66 are in the

former Confederacy (12 in Mississippi, 11 in Texas, 9 in North Carolina, 8 in Louisiana,

7 in Arkansas, 6 in Georgia, 4 each in Alabama and South Carolina, 3 in Tennessee,

and 2 in Florida); additionally, there are 8 in Kentucky, 4 each in Arizona, California, and

Michigan, 3 each in Illinois, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and 2 in Missouri.

Large Cities With a High Percentage of Low Income Residents

For the survey, a large city is defined as a city with a population of 250,000 or more.

Percentage of residents living below the U.S. government established poverty income

level is listed, based on 2012 US Census estimates.

1. Detroit, Michigan 42.3%

2. Cleveland, Ohio 36.1%

3. Cincinnati, Ohio 34.1%

4. Miami, Florida 31.7%

5. Fresno, California 31.5%

6. Buffalo, New York 30.9%

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7. Newark, New Jersey 30.4%

8. Toledo, Ohio 30.1%

9. Milwaukee, Wisconsin 29.9%

10. St. Louis, Missouri 29.2%

Location, Per Capita Income, Population

All Locations (2000 Census)

1. Allen, South Dakota $1,539, (420)

2. Cuevitas, Texas $1,703, (37)

3. Brundage, Texas $2,371, (31)

4. Wounded Knee, South Dakota $2,403, (328) [3]

5. Tobin, California $2,584, (11)

6. Los Angeles Subdivision, Texas $2,701, (86)

7. Tagg Flats, Oklahoma $2,774, (11)

8. Elmo, Montana $2,778, (143)

9. McNary, Arizona $2,917, (349)

10. Parmelee, South Dakota $2,946, (650)

11. East Dunseith, North Dakota $3,026, (219)

12. Boys Town, Nebraska $3,048, (818)

13. Green Grass, South Dakota $3,135, (58)

14. Belden, California $3,141, (26)

15. South Alamo, Texas $3,162, (3,101)

16. Muniz, Texas $3,230, (1,106)

17. Lago, Texas $3,346, (246)

18. Lukachukai, Arizona $3,380, (1,565)

19. Nageezi, New Mexico $3,502, (296)

20. Redford, Texas $3,577, (132)

21. Indian Hills, Texas $3,583 (2,036)

22. El Cenizo, Texas $3,610 (3,545)

23. Little Eagle, South Dakota $3,632 (370)

24. Del Mar Heights, Texas $3,665 (259)

25. Aleneva, Alaska $3,707 (68)

26. Calio, North Dakota $3,711 (24)

27. Alto Bonito, Texas $3,717 (569)

28. Stidham, Oklahoma $3,764 (23)

29. Steamboat, Arizona $3,767 (233)

30. Oglala, South Dakota $3,824 (1,229)

31. Las Lomas, Texas $3,877 (2,684)

32. Whiterocks, Utah $3,920 (341)

33. Winslow West, Arizona – $3,951 (131)

34. Ponemah, Minnesota $4,000 (874)

35. Bullhead, South Dakota $4,029 (308)

36. Fort Thompson, South Dakota $4,030 (1,375)

37. Alamo, New Mexico $4,039 (1,183)

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38. Spring Creek, South Dakota $4,045 (136)

39. Cameron Park, Texas $4,103 (5,961)

40. Antelope, South Dakota $4,105 (867)

41. University Park, New Mexico $4,152 (2,732)

42. Hartwell, Missouri $4,216 (16)

43. Mila Doce, Texas $4,221 (4,907)

44. La Rosita, Texas $4,228 (1,729)

45. Sheep Springs, New Mexico $4,260 (237)

46. San Carlos, Texas $4,296 (2,650)

47. Pope-Vannoy Landing, Alaska $4,325 (8)

48. Kiryas Joel, New York $4,355 (13,138)

49. Porcupine, South Dakota $4,429 (407)

50. Manderson-White Horse Creek, South Dakota $4,440 (626)

51. Memphis, Alabama $4,444 (33)

52. Santa Cruz, Texas $4,493 (630)

53. Sawmill, Arizona $4,495 (612)

54. La Puerta, Texas $4,507 (1,636)

55. Butterfield, Texas $4,526 (61)

56. Navajo, New Mexico $4,551 (2,097)

57. North Escobares, Texas $4,562 (1,692)

58. Rio Bravo, Texas $4,566 (5,553)

59. Wanblee, South Dakota $4,584 (641)

60. Ranchette Estates, Texas $4,605 (133)

61. San Carlos, Arizona $4,615 (3,716)

62. Natural Bridge, Alabama $4,619 (28)

63. Dixville, New Hampshire $4,667 (75)

64. Round Rock, Arizona $4,688 (144)

65. Aurora Center, South Dakota $4,700 (7)

66. Oljato-Monument Valley, Arizona $4,702 (155)

67. East Fork, Arizona $4,772 (880)

68. Hildale, Utah $4,782 (1,895)

69. Progreso, Texas $4,789 (4,851)

70. Muddy, Montana $4,837 (627)

71. Bixby, Texas $4,852 (356)

72. Scissors, Texas $4,914 (2,805)

73. Heidelberg, Texas $4,922 (1,586)

74. Doffing, Texas $4,923 (4,256)

75. Shell Valley, North Dakota $4,948 (395)

76. Tradewinds, Texas $4,962 (163)

77. Las Palmas-Juarez, Texas $4,973 (1,666)

78. East Orosi, California $4,984 (426)

79. Belle Glade Camp, Florida $4,995 (1,141)

80. Storla, South Dakota $5,014 (15)

81. Milltown, South Dakota $5,031 (8)

82. Nazlini, Arizona $5,036 (397)

83. French Camp, Mississippi $5,047 (393)

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84. Pinesdale, Montana $5,051 (742)

85. Roma Creek, Texas $5,062 (610)

86. Salineno, Texas $5,115 (304)

87. Sullivan City, Texas $5,131 (3,998)

88. Lindsay, Reeves County, Texas $5,142 (394)

89. Kaser, New York $5,147 (3,316)

90. Fort Totten, North Dakota $5,165 (952)

91. Olmito, Texas $5,170 (1,198)

92. La Homa, Texas $5,180 (10,433)

93. Midway North, Texas $5,202 (3,946)

94. Houck, Arizona $5,219 (1,087)

95. Spring Garden-Terra Verde, Texas $5,223 (693)

96. Howe Township, Forest County, Pennsylvania $5,223 (417)

97. New Square, New York $5,237 (4,624)

98. Lopezville, Texas $5,254 (4,476)

99. Colorado City, Arizona $5,293 (3,334)

100. Wheelwright, Kentucky $5,367 (1,034)

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VII. The Hope VI

Urban Housing Initiative

HOPE VI is a plan by the United States Department of Housing and Urban

Development. It is meant to revitalize the worst public housing projects in the United

States into mixed-income developments. Its philosophy is largely based on New

Urbanism and the concept of Defensible space.

The program began in 1992, with formal recognition by law in 1998. As of 2005, the

program had distributed $5.8 billion through 446 federal block grants to cities for the

developments, with the highest individual grant being $67.7 million, awarded to

Arverne/Edgemere Houses in New York, NY.

HOPE VI has included a variety of grant programs including: Revitalization, Demolition,

Main Street, and Planning grant programs. As of June 1, 2010 there have been 254

HOPE VI Revitalization grants awarded to 132 housing authorities since 1993 – totaling

more than $6.1 billion.


An exemplary precursor and inspiration to the HOPE VI model was the Columbia Point

Housing Projects on Columbia Point in Boston, Massachusetts. Built in 1954, and

consisting of approximately 1,500 apartment units, they fell into disrepair and became

quite dangerous. By the 1980s, only 300 families lived there and the buildings were

falling apart. Eventually, realizing the situation was almost hopeless, Boston turned over

the management, cleanup, planning and revitalization of the property to a private

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development firm, Corcoran-Mullins-Jennison, in 1984. The construction work for the

new Harbor Point development began in 1986 and was completed by 1990. It was a

mixed income community, called Harbor Point Apartments.

Congress established the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing

in 1989 to study the issue of dilapidated public housing. After submitting the report to

Congress in 1992, legislation creating the HOPE VI grants was written. The first HOPE

VI pilot grant was given to the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) in 1993. The original

HOPE VI grant application by AHA was based on renovating/modernizing Techwood

Homes, the nation's oldest housing project, and about a third of adjacent Clark Howell

Homes. The grant envisioned Techwood/Clark Howell remaining entirely public housing.

The mixed-income concept did not exist when the first HOPE VI grant awards were

made and they were only made to housing authorities. Atlanta-based The Integral

Group partnered with McCormack Baron Salazar of St. Louis to submit a proposal to

AHA in the fall of 1994 in response to AHA's request for proposals. That resulted in the

creation of Centennial Place, which has remained a successful mixed-income

community. Instrumental in the process was AHA's new CEO Renee Lewis Glover, who

has guided the agency through the demolition of all of its large housing projects and

replaced them with mixed-income communities modeled on Centennial Place. The first

HOPE VI mixed-income community (where public housing was a component) was

Phase I of Centennial Place, which closed on March 8, 1996.

HOPE VI was the last gasp for public housing according to Henry Cisneros, then

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

President George W. Bush has previously called for the abolition of the HOPE VI

program, and Congress has reduced funding for the block grants.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom proposed a local version of HOPE VI, using a

$100 million public bond referendum to gather private money to rehabilitate outdated

public housing projects.

In FY 2009, HOPE VI received a $120 million budget; however, in FY2010 no funds

were budgeted for HOPE VI and a new Choice Neighborhoods program had a proposed

budget of $250 million. Over the course of 15 years, HOPE VI grants were used to

demolish 96,200 public housing units and produce 107,800 new or renovated housing

units, of which 56,800 were to be affordable to the lowest-income households. The new

and renovated housing units were mixed income, less dense, and sought to attain better

design and integration into the local neighborhoods.

Program Concepts

HOPE VI makes use of New Urbanism, meaning that communities must be dense,

pedestrian-friendly, and transit-accessible. Housing rarely comes in the form of

apartments. Instead, private houses, duplexes, and especially for public housing

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projects, row houses are preferred, because these buildings directly interact with the

street. Similarly, houses always stand close to the street, with small front yards. It is

common to see porches on the buildings, as well as small apartments for single

residents built over garages or on the ground floor.

By applying defensible space, most communities are specifically designed or remodeled

with private property, emphasizing security. Buildings are low-rise and often integrated

directly into failing urban areas, in an effort to revitalize them. Private custodianship,

with individuals taking care of their assigned part of the project, is a critical element.

Likewise, providing residents with high-quality materials and houses is believed to

encourage pride in the space and an interest in keeping things in good condition. This,

theoretically, mitigates vandalism.

In general, much of the philosophy comes from a theory that apartment buildings are

not healthy spaces for human habitation. Only with substantial wealth can an apartment

building maintain the characteristics of security, social networking, and urban integration

that the designers feel is necessary for a healthy community. Instead, the lower-rise,

urban feel with a sense of safety in the built environment satisfies that need.

Many of the elements of the program do not involve construction of buildings at all.

More funding goes to housing assistance vouchers than in previous programs. As with

the strategy of constructing in-fill housing in middle-class neighborhoods and providing

new housing for market-rate buyers, this element helps integrate residents into existing

neighborhoods, to produce a certain cohesion. In almost all implementations of the

program, housing authorities and non-profits have provided resident-assistance

information programs for new homeowners, teaching them and their neighbors how to

take care of a house that they must protect.

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Some critics have said that local authorities use the program as a legal means to evict

poor residents in favor of more affluent residents in a process of gentrification. They

have said that less than 12% of those displaced from old housing eventually move into

the replacement housing. One writer asserted that in the case of a section of Cabrini–

Green in Chicago, residents were forced out for HOPE VI redevelopment by armed


Federal auditors found that HUD was awarding grants based on the ability of the area to

generate income for the city rather than the actual state of the housing project in

question. Only seven of the first 34 grants went towards the development of high-rise


Some have criticized the new developments because they result in a net loss of housing

for the poor. As the program does not require a "one-for-one" replacement of the old

housing unit, the new unit does not have to house the same number of tenants as the

old housing unit did. (The one-for-one replacement policy was repealed by Congress in

1998, separately from HUD's implementation of HOPE VI.) The Urban Institute reported

that the number of units receiving a federal subsidy and available for the deeply poor to

live in is cut in half in developments arising from the program. The National Low Income

Housing Coalition has said that no HOPE VI grants should be allotted without

requirements for one-for-one unit replacement.

The NLIHC maintains that in order to acquire federal grants, local housing authorities

have "demolished viable units and displaced families." The program has been called

"notorious" for its allotment of federal grants for demolition of public housing, and some

say it has resulted in a "dramatic loss of housing."

Some have criticized the plan for having the right goals but not accomplishing them, or

not going about them in the right way. The National Housing Law Project issued a joint

report saying, "HOPE VI has been characterized by a lack of clear standards, a lack of

hard data on program results, and misleading and contradictory statements made by

HUD." The report said:

"HUD's failure to provide comprehensive and accurate information about HOPE VI has

created an environment in which misimpressions about the program and its basic

purposes and outcomes have flourished- often with encouragement from HUD. HOPE

VI plays upon the public housing program's unfairly negative reputation and an

exaggerated sense of crisis about the state of public housing in general to justify a

drastic model of large-scale family displacement and housing redevelopment that

increasingly appears to do more harm than good."

Criticism has also been targeted at the private management of the eventual

redevelopments, which are built with mostly public funding. Others have characterized

this is a positive aspect of the program.

Page 98 of 134

The scheme was heavily criticised on the 2016 PJ Harvey album The Hope Six

Demolition Project.

Previous projects

Riverview in Kingsport, Tennessee

Hanover Acres in Allentown, Pennsylvania

Cascade Village in Akron, Ohio

Edgewood Village in Akron, Ohio

Pueblo del Sol and Pico Gardens in Los Angeles

Hurt Village/Lauderdale Courts in Memphis, TN (now Uptown Homes)

Dixie Homes in Memphis, TN

Lamar Terrace in Memphis, TN (now University Place)

LeMoyne Gardens in Memphis, TN (now College Park)

High Point, Seattle

Capitol Gateway in Atlanta

Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago

Rockwell Gardens in Chicago

Stateway Gardens in Chicago

Henry Horner Homes in Chicago

ABLA in Chicago

Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg in Washington, DC

Mechanicsville Commons in Knoxville, Tennessee

Arthur Blumeyer in St. Louis

Columbia Villa in Portland, Oregon

Oak Hill in Pittsburgh, PA

Bedford Hill in Pittsburgh, PA

Richard Allen Homes in Philadelphia, PA, 1992, $50,000,000 revitalization grant.

Schuylkill Falls in Philadelphia, PA, 1997, $26,400,951 revitalization grant

Martin Luther King Homes in Philadelphia, PA, 1998, $25,229,950 revitalization grant

Mill Creek Homes in Philadelphia, PA, 2001, $34,825,000 revitalization grant

Ludlow Homes in Philadelphia, PA, 2004, $17,059,932 revitalization grant

Bluegrass-Aspendale Housing Project and Sugar Mill Apartments in Lexington, Kentucky

Liberty Green and Park DuValle in Louisville, Kentucky:

North Beach, the Western Addition, Hayes Valley, Bernal Heights, and Valencia

Gardens in the Mission District in San Francisco, California:

Chestnut Linden Court in Oakland, California

Desire Projects in New Orleans, Louisiana

St. Thomas Projects in New Orleans, Louisiana

John Henry Hale Homes in Nashville, Tennessee

Sam Levy Homes in Nashville, Tennessee

CityWest in Cincinnati, Ohio

First Ward in Charlotte, North Carolina

Willow Oaks in Greensboro, North Carolin

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VIII. References














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Attachment A

Basic Facts on Concentrated Poverty

Page 105 of 134

November 3, 2015

Basic Facts on Concentrated Poverty

By Isaac Shapiro, Cecile Murray, and Barbara Sard

What Is Concentrated Poverty?

Concentrated poverty describes areas where a high proportion of residents are poor. Researchers

study this phenomenon by examining the share of people in a given geographic area (usually a

Census tract) living in poverty; they often consider poverty “concentrated” if it is in a Census tract

where the poverty rate is 40 percent or more — meaning at least four in ten people fall below the

poverty line. 1 They label such areas “extreme-poverty neighborhoods.” 2 The “concentrated poverty

rate” is the share of poor Americans who live in these extreme-poverty tracts. 3

The topic of concentrated poverty has received increased attention over the past year. Media

coverage of the turmoil in Ferguson and Baltimore has focused on tension between communities

and the police, but it has also brought attention to the underlying economic circumstances that

contribute to those tensions. In addition, high-profile new research by Raj Chetty and others 4

provides strong evidence that children who experience the disadvantages of growing up in and

surrounded by poverty will continue to bear the burden of those disadvantages into adulthood.

Current Estimates

The most current estimates of concentrated poverty reflect combined data from the 2009-2013

American Community Survey. They pool five years of data to provide a large enough sample size to

1 This 40 percent threshold “has become the standard in the literature and has even been incorporated into federal data

analysis and program rules.” See Paul Jargowsky, “Stunning Progress, Hidden Problems: The Dramatic Decline of

Concentrated Poverty in the 1990s,” The Brookings Institution, May 2003.

2 While not a perfect proxy for neighborhoods, Census tracts are small and relatively stable geographic units and thus are

the best choice for a national study. According to Census, these tracts “generally have a population size between 1,200

and 8,000 people, with an optimum size of 4,000 people.”

3 Researchers typically measure trends in concentrated poverty using the official federal poverty rate. This choice is

largely dictated by the nature of the data available at the Census tract level. But it is worth noting that the federal

poverty rate is a pre-tax cash income measure that omits two key components of the safety net, non-cash benefits and

refundable tax credits.

4 Raj Chetty et al., “Where Is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United

States,” NBER Working Paper No. 19843, June 2014; Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, “The Impacts of

Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects and County-Level Estimates,” NBER, May


820 First Street NE, Suite 510 • Washington, DC 20002 • Tel: 202-408-1080 • • 1

yield useful information at the tract level. The information here is from a report by Paul Jargowsky

for the Century Foundation. 5

Those data for 2009-2013 show that 14.4 percent of poor Americans live in extreme-poverty

neighborhoods and 6.1 percent of all Census tracts have a poverty rate of 40 percent or higher.

Altogether, 13.8 million people (poor and non-poor) live in these extreme-poverty neighborhoods.

Troublingly, poor children under age 6 — the

group whose long-term prospects could be

affected the most by living in areas of

concentrated poverty — are especially likely to

live in extreme-poverty neighborhoods. The

concentrated poverty rate for poor children

under age 6 is 16.5 percent, compared to 13.8

percent for poor adults.


The picture is worse for minorities than for

whites: the concentrated poverty rate is 25.2

percent among African Americans and 17.4

percent among Hispanics, compared to 7.5

percent for whites (see Figure 1). Because these

figures reflect the share of poor individuals living

in areas of concentrated poverty, this disparity

cannot be attributed to the fact that African

American and Hispanic households are more

likely to be poor. That is, minorities are more

likely to be poor, and poor minorities are also

more likely to live in extreme-poverty


These patterns particularly affect young, minority children (see Figure 2). Among poor children

under age 6, 28.0 percent of African Americans and 18.1 percent of Hispanics live in extremepoverty

neighborhoods, compared with 24.2 percent of poor African American adults and 16.9

percent of poor Hispanic adults. In contrast, white poor children under age 6 are less likely than

white poor adults to live in extreme-poverty neighborhoods, with concentrated poverty rates of 6.2

percent and 8.2 percent, respectively.

5 Paul Jargowsky, “Architecture of Segregation,” The Century Foundation, August 9, 2015,

820 First Street NE, Suite 510 • Washington, DC 20002 • Tel: 202-408-1080 • • 2


Concentrated poverty is overwhelmingly an urban and suburban phenomenon: 90 percent of

extreme-poverty tracts are in metropolitan areas. 6 Concentrated poverty rates also vary by region.

In 2009-2013 the estimated concentrated poverty rate was significantly higher in the Midwest (16.9

percent) and Northeast (16.3 percent) than in the South (13.7 percent) or West (12.3 percent). 7

6 “Metropolitan” is defined as a central city with a population of at least 50,000 and its suburbs, determined by

commuting patterns.

7 CBPP calculated these percentage by combining data for 2000 from a 2013 Jargowsky paper with data on changes over

time in his 2015 paper. See Paul Jargowsky, “Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium,” The Century

Foundation, December 17, 2013,; “Architecture of


820 First Street NE, Suite 510 • Washington, DC 20002 • Tel: 202-408-1080 • • 3

Page 106 of 134

Attachment B

Concentration of Poverty

In The New Millennium

Page 107 of 134

Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium:

Changes in the Prevalence, Composition,

and Location of High-Poverty Neighborhoods


Poverty ebbs and flows due to changes in the economy,

changes in demographics, and changes in human capital. In

addition, the spatial organization of poverty can contribute

to poverty and help to maintain it over generations. For

any given number or percentage of poor families in a

society, a more concentrated residential pattern of the

poor will result in more poor adults living in dangerous

neighborhoods with less access to information about jobs.

More poor children will grow up with fewer employed role

models and attend schools that, on average, function at

far lower levels than those of the middle class. Physical

and mental health of the poor will also suffer. While the

exact extent of these effects is debated, few would dispute

that there are costs to the poor of living in economically

devastated ghetto or barrio neighborhoods, rather than

middle-class or better neighborhoods with good schools,

good connections to the labor market, and other public


For this reason, the spatial distribution of poverty has been

an ongoing concern of economists, sociologists, political

scientists, and urban planners. After a dramatic increase in

the concentration of poverty between 1970 and 1990, there

were substantial declines in the 1990s related to a booming

economy and changes in housing policy that favored

decentralized forms of housing subsidies. Unfortunately,

the concentration of poverty has surged once again since


This issue brief uses data from three waves of the American

Community Survey (ACS) five-year census tract files to

examine the resurgence of concentrated poverty in detail.

(See the Appendix on data and methodology

The data reveal that although concentrated poverty has

returned to—and in some ways exceeded—the previous

peak level of 1990, there are substantial differences in how

concentrated poverty is manifested in the new millennium.

In particular, it is worth noting that the residents of highpoverty

neighborhoods are more demographically diverse

than in the past; that smaller metropolitan areas and cities

experienced the fastest growth, rather than the largest

metro areas as was common in the past; and that, within

cities, high-poverty neighborhoods are more decentralized

and disconnected, with unknown implications for the

residents of these areas. The brief also discusses why

an understanding of the spatial dimension is critical to

addressing the problems caused by poverty, and makes

recommendations for future directions for policy.

What the Findings Show about the Surging

Concentration of Poverty

Looking at the ACS data revealed some significant

findings. The most interesting discoveries concern the

number and location of high-poverty neighborhoods, their

changing demographics, and the shifting concentration of

poverty nationwide

Neighborhoods by Poverty Rate

As shown in Table 1, (see page 2) the number of highpoverty

census tracts—those with poverty rates of 40

percent or more—fell 26.5 percent, from 3,417 in 1990

to 2,510 in 2000. The sharp reduction in high-poverty

neighborhoods observed in the 2000 census—after the

economy had run at nearly full employment during the

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


last half of the 1990s—has since been completely reversed.

The count of such tracts increased by 800 (32 percent)

between 2000 and the 2005–2009 ACS data to nearly

the level of 1990, even though these data span more than

three years before the financial crisis hit in late 2008. In the

latest available data, spanning 2007 to 2011, the count of

high poverty tracts rose by an additional 454 (14 percent)

to 3,764, eclipsing the 1990 high. 1 Overall, the number of

high-poverty tracts has increased by 50 percent since 2000.

Thus, there are more zones of concentrated poverty in the

most recent data than have ever been recorded before.

Clearly, the recent severe recession produced more highpoverty

neighborhoods, but it is important to note that the

bulk of the increase largely preceded the financial crisis and

the sharp rise in unemployment that followed.

The distribution of census tracts by poverty rate has

changed in several other ways. First, there were fewer

extreme high-poverty tracts—those with poverty rates of

60 percent or more—in the 2007–2011 data than in 1990.

In practice, such neighborhoods tended to be dominated

by public housing projects, where residence was restricted

to low-income families by program rules. Second, there is

a somewhat different trend in “borderline” neighborhoods,

those with poverty rates of 20 to 40 percent. Such

neighborhoods increased between 1990 and 2000, as

many high poverty neighborhoods “moved up.” One might

have expected the number of borderline neighborhoods

to decline again once more neighborhoods moved back

into the high-poverty category. But instead, the number of

borderline neighborhoods has increased every year that we

can observe. Between 1990 and the 2007–2011, borderline

neighborhoods increased 43.1 percent, compared to 10.2

percent for high-poverty neighborhoods. As a result of

these changes and the increase in the total number of

tracts, the distribution of census tracts by poverty rate has

changed over time, as shown in the bottom panel of Table

1. Borderline neighborhoods increased from 18.4 percent

to 21.7 percent of total census tracts, while there were slight

declines in the share of census tracts with higher or lower

poverty rates.

Residents of High-Poverty Neighborhoods

The population of high-poverty neighborhoods has also

Table 1. Census Tracts by Poverty Rate, 1990–2011




0-19.9% 20-39.9% 40-59.9% 60-79.9% 80-100% 40-100%


1990 45,286 10,973 2,794 481 142 3,417 59,676

2000 51,253 11,241 2,155 296 59 2,510 65,004


2005-2009 48,313 13,328 2,734 452 124 3,310 64,951

2006-2010 53,957 14,823 2,976 395 103 3,474 72,254

2007-2011 52,822 15,700 3,254 415 95 3,764 72,286


1990-2000 13.2% 2.4% -22.9% -38.5% -58.5% -26.5% 8.9%

2000-2011 3.1% 39.7% 51.0% 40.2% 61.0% 50.0% 11.2%

1990-2011 16.6% 43.1% 16.5% -13.7% -33.1% 10.2% 21.1%


1990 75.9% 18.4% 4.7% 0.8% 0.2% 5.7% 100%

2000 78.8% 17.3% 3.3% 0.5% 0.1% 3.9% 100%

2005-2009 74.4% 20.5% 4.2% 0.7% 0.2% 5.1% 100%

2006-2010 74.7% 20.5% 4.1% 0.5% 0.1% 4.8% 100%

2007-2011 73.1% 21.7% 4.5% 0.6% 0.1% 5.2% 100%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1990 Census and 2000 Census, Summary File 3; 2009, 2010, and 2011 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Table 2. Population and Poor Population by Poverty Threshold Level, 1990–2011


Persons % Poor % Persons Poor







1990 49,235,624 20.3 15,703,328 49.5

2000 49,488,516 18.1 15,046,608 44.4

2005-2009 62,612,180 21.3 19,129,454 48.4 27% 18%

2006-2010 66,954,054 22.6 20,528,429 50.2 35% 25%

2007-2011 71,755,114 24.0 22,084,705 51.7 45% 33%

1990 22,060,599 9.1 9,093,430 28.6

2000 19,863,809 7.3 7,834,252 23.1

2005-2009 24,982,018 8.5 10,004,654 25.3 26% 17%

2006-2010 27,255,305 9.2 10,861,521 26.5 37% 27%

2007-2011 29,888,363 10.0 11,880,122 27.8 50% 38%

1990 9,592,333 4.0 4,802,686 15.1

2000 7,198,892 2.6 3,487,015 10.3

2005-2009 9,506,534 3.2 4,687,383 11.9 32% 23%

2006-2010 10,309,844 3.5 5,049,956 12.3 43% 32%

2007-2011 11,224,438 3.8 5,484,665 12.8 56% 43%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1990 Census and 2000 Census, Summary File 3; 2009, 2010, and 2011 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

risen substantially since the 2000 census, as shown in

Table 2. The results for alternative poverty thresholds of

20 percent and 30 percent are shown for comparison.

About one-fourth of the U.S. population, over 71 million

persons, and more than half of all poor persons live in

neighborhoods with poverty rates of 20 percent or more.

Ten percent of the U.S. population, nearly 30 million

persons, and 27.8 percent of the poor live in census tracts

where the poverty rate is 30 percent or more. More than

11 million persons, slightly less than 4 percent of the U.S.

population, and 12.8 percent of all poor persons lives in

severely distressed neighborhoods where the poverty rate

is 40 percent or more.

Clearly, the magnitude of the concentrated poverty

problem depends on the threshold level selected to

identify high-poverty neighborhoods. The basic trend,

however, does not. Since 2000, the population of highpoverty

neighborhoods, based on the 40 percent poverty

threshold, increased by a troubling 56 percent. The increase

is nearly as rapid if lower, more inclusive thresholds are used:

the population of neighborhoods with poverty above 20

percent and above 30 percent increased by 45 percent and

50 percent, respectively. In the same time period, the U.S.

population as a whole increased by only 9 percent; in other

words, these increases vastly outstrip population growth.

Poverty also rose during this period, both before and after

the onset of the financial crisis. Still, the total number of

poor persons increased by 26 percent between the 2000

Census and the 2011 ACS data release. The growth of

the poor population of high-poverty neighborhoods was

more than double the growth in poor persons nationally,

indicating a change in the spatial organization of poverty.

While the resurgence of concentrated poverty since 2000

was a national phenomenon, there were striking regional

variations in the magnitude of the increases. Table 3 (see

page 4) provides sub-national details on the increases in

high-poverty census tracts and population. The North

Central region (the Midwest) had by far the most rapid

growth of high-poverty census tracts (513 new higher

poverty tracts, a 90 percent increase) and population (1.5

million, 132 percent). The Northeast, in contrast, added

only 83 new tracts (15 percent increase) and 200,000 new

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Table 3. High-Poverty Census Tracts and Populations, 2000, 2007–2011, and Change, by Region, Area Type,

and Metropolitan Area Size







2000 2011 Chg. % 2000 2011 Chg. %

UNITED STATES 1006 2,510 3,764 1,254 50.0% 7,198,892 11,224,438 4,025,546 55.9%


Northeast 107 555 638 83 15.0% 1,696,800 1,899,244 202,444 11.9%

N. Central 297 570 1,083 513 90.0% 1,153,829 2,673,973 1,520,144 131.7%

South 414 964 1,497 533 55.3% 2,791,826 4,633,442 1,841,616 66.0%

West 188 421 546 125 29.7% 1,556,437 2,017,779 461,342 29.6%


Metropolitan Areas 384 2,274 3,367 1,093 48.1% 6,452,238 9,941,574 3,489,336 54.1%

More than 3 million 11 728 767 39 5.4% 2,358,928 2,579,019 220,091 9.3%

1 to 3 million 52 716 1,093 377 52.7% 1,639,910 2,790,790 1,150,880 70.2%

500,000 to 1 million 55 312 570 258 82.7% 1,071,512 1,892,221 820,709 76.6%

250,000 to 500,000 75 249 465 216 86.7% 602,452 1,284,251 681,799 113.2%

Less than 250,000 191 269 472 203 75.5% 779,436 1,395,293 615,857 79.0%

Micropolitan Areas 576 147 299 152 103.4% 520,032 981,040 461,008 88.6%

Small/Rural Areas 46 89 98 9 10.1% 226,622 301,824 75,202 33.2%

Note: Areas that have increased 100 percent or more are in bold.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau , 2000 Census, Summary File 3, and 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

residents (12 percent). The South and West regions were

in between these two extremes.

Another striking and somewhat surprising variation is

related to metropolitan area size. The problem of highpoverty

ghettos and barrios is usually associated with

the nation’s largest cities. Yet the growth in concentrated

poverty since 2000 is more pronounced in smaller

metropolitan areas. Metropolitan areas with populations

of more than 3 million in the 2007–2011 data, the eleven

largest metro areas, had only a 5 percent increase in highpoverty

tracts and a 9 percent increase in the population

of those tracts. In contrast, metropolitan areas with

populations of less than 1 million experienced more than a

75 percent increase in high-poverty tracts. In the seventyfive

metropolitan areas that have a population of between

250,000 to 500,000, the number of residents living in

high-poverty areas more than doubled (113 percent).

Micropolitan areas—those areas centered on a smaller

city of 10,000 to 50,000—which in the past have had very

little concentrated poverty, experienced a doubling in the

number of high-poverty census tracts and a near doubling

of their population in high-poverty neighborhoods. Clearly,

concentration of poverty is no longer a problem confined

to the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.

Racial/Ethnic Variation

High-poverty neighborhoods are disproportionately

composed of members of minority groups, reflecting

both the higher average poverty rates of minority groups

and the continuation of racial and ethnic segregation.

While this continues to be the case, the relative balance

of groups is changing, as shown in Table 4 (see page 5).

The number of non-Hispanic white people residing in

high-poverty neighborhoods more than doubled between

2000 and 2007–2011, rising from 1.4 million to 2.9 million. In

comparison, black and Hispanic residents of high-poverty

neighborhoods increased 39 percent and 51 percent,

respectively, over the same time period. Combined with

the long-term growth in the Hispanic population, the result

is that the black share of the high-poverty neighborhood

population has declined from 42 percent in 1990 to 37

percent in 2007–2011. The white share increased from

20 percent to 26 percent. The Hispanic share remained

constant about 30 percent. 2

Regardless of the share of the population totals nationally,

the norm in past decades was that individual high-poverty

neighborhoods tended to be dominated by a single group.

Even cities with a mixed high-poverty population would

have some monolithic black ghetto census tracts and some

predominantly Hispanic barrio tracts. However, tracts

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


dominated by a single group are less common. Figure 1

shows the breakdown of single group tracts, defined as

those in which one race or ethnicity comprises 75 percent or

more of the tract’s population. Whereas two-thirds of highpoverty

tracts were dominated by a single race/ethnic group

in 1990, only about half met this standard in 2007–2011. The

main reason is the declining prevalence of high-poverty

tracts dominated by blacks and to a lesser extent whites.

Hispanic dominated tracts actually increased slightly.

Concentration of Poverty

The concentration of poverty is defined as the percentage

of poor persons who live in high-poverty neighborhoods.

As we have seen, since 2000, the population of highpoverty

zones was increasing, but so was the overall national

number of poor people due to both population growth

and increases in the poverty rate. In other words, both

the numerator and the denominator of the concentrated

poverty rate increased over the decade. For the most part,

the growth in the numerator was larger, thus increasing

the concentration of poverty. The overall concentration

of poverty has increased from 10.3 percent in 2000 to 12.8

percent in the more recent data, but it still has not returned to

the 1990 level of 15.1 percent. Among non-Hispanic whites,

the concentration of poverty is much lower generally, but

increased faster, from 4.1 percent to 6.8 percent, and now

exceeds the level of 1990.

To give a visual sense of the regional variation in the

concentration of poverty across the nation, Figure 2

through Figure 5 (see page 6 and 7) show the state-level

concentration of poverty, both overall and separately

for non-Hispanic whites, blacks, and Hispanics. 3 While

the primary units of this analysis are metropolitan and

micropolitan areas, there are nearly one thousand of

them; state-level maps convey the regional trends more

effectively. The color scheme is consistent across groups,

so the maps can be compared directly. The overall

concentration of poverty varies widely at the state level,

from a low of 3.1 percent in Maine to Michigan, where

Figure 1. Dominant Racial or Ethnic Group in High-

Poverty Census Tracts, 1990 to 2007–2011

















None Asian Native Hispanic White Black

Source: : U.S. Census Bureau, 1990 Census and 2000 Census, Summary File 3; 2009, 2010,

and 2011 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

more than one in five poor persons lives in a high-poverty

neighborhood. Concentration is greatest in the Mid-

Atlantic, Midwest, Mississippi, and the Southwest. The

concentration of the non-Hispanic white poor is lower

across the board, as shown in Figure 3. In only four states

does the concentration of white poverty exceed 10 percent,

and the highest level is again in Michigan, at 11.4 percent.

The situation is dramatically different for African-

Americans, as shown in Figure 4. In nine states, more

than one in four of the black poor live in a high-poverty

neighborhood; the highest is again Michigan, at 41.8

percent. These states comprise a large and populous

swath of the country starting in the rust belt and following

the course of the Mississippi River. In another seven states,

concentration of poverty is between 20 percent and 25

percent, and ten more have rates between 15 percent

and 20 percent. Recall that in no state does concentration

of poverty for whites exceed 11.4 percent. Clearly, black

Table 4. High-Poverty Neighborhood Residents, by Race/Ethnicity


2000 7,198,892 1,439,889 20.0% 3,010,537 41.8% 2,236,604 31.1%

2011 11,224,438 2,932,517 26.1% 4,195,031 37.4% 3,386,471 30.2%

Change 4,025,546 1,492,628 1,184,494 1,149,867

% Change 56% 104% 39% 51%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau , 2000 Census, Summary File 3, and 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 2. Concentration of Poverty,

All Races and Ethnicities, 2007–2011










4.8% 10.4%





















20.6% 13.5% 10.5%













Concentration of

Poverty Total, 2011








Source: U.S. Census Bureau,

2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.



Figure 3. Non-Hispanic White

Concentration of Poverty, 2007–2011










3.3% 5.2%










8.3% 5.3%

























Concentration of

Poverty Total, 2011








Source: U.S. Census Bureau,

2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.



The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 4. Black Concentration of Poverty, 2007–2011










2.3% 2.9%






















29.7% 22.9% 15.7%















Concentration of

Poverty Total, 2011





Source: U.S. Census Bureau,

2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.



Figure 5. Hispanic Concentration of Poverty, 2007–2011










2.9% 4%










9.1% 15%

























Concentration of

Poverty Total, 2011








Source: U.S. Census Bureau,

2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.



The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


and white poverty is fundamentally different when

neighborhood context is taken into account.

The situation for the Hispanic poor is somewhat different,

as shown in Figure 5. Ohio and Pennsylvania are the only

states where poverty concentration exceeds 25 percent.

Michigan, a handful of Northeastern states, Texas, and

New Mexico are in the next category of 20 percent to 25

percent concentration. In most of the rest of the country,

however, concentration of poverty among Hispanics is at

more moderate levels.

The next set of figures maps the changes in concentration

of poverty since 2000 at the state level. Figure 6 (see

page 9) shows that the vast majority of states experienced

an increase in concentrated poverty. A handful of states

had decreases in concentration of poverty of less than 5

percentage points. Most had small (0 to 5 percentage

point) or moderate (5 to 10 percentage point) increases

in concentration of poverty. Michigan exhibits the largest

increase, 11.7 percentage points. Non-Hispanic whites, as

shown in Figure 7 (see page 9), exhibit a very consistent

national trend of increases in concentrated poverty; only

three states exhibited decreases and these were trivial.

The vast majority of states saw concentration of poverty

increase between 0 and 5 percentage points. Michigan

and Ohio increased by a little more than 6 percentage

points each.

In contrast to the consistency of the changes for

whites, Figure 8 (see page 10) reveals that the statelevel

changes in black concentration of poverty vary

enormously. In California and New York, concentration

of poverty declined about 5 percentage points for blacks,

yet a number of states had very substantial increases,

led by—not surprisingly—Michigan, with an increase of

23.4 percentage points in the concentration of poverty.

Indeed the concentration of poverty more than doubled

in Michigan between 2000 and 2007–2011. The same was

true in the Carolinas, Indiana, and several other states with

small black populations. On the other hand, three of the

five states with the largest black populations had large

percentage declines—New York (-18 percent), Georgia

(12 percent), and California (-28 percent). Hispanics,

as shown in Figure 9 (see page 10), exhibit a similarly

befuddling pattern, with a mixed-up pattern of increases

and decreases at the state level. This wide variation in

the trend of concentration among blacks and Hispanics is

puzzling, given that several of the major forces affecting

concentration of poverty—the financial crisis and changes

in housing policy—were national in scope.

Table 5 (see page 11) presents the concentration of

poverty figures for different regions and types of areas.

Table 6 (see page 12) goes a step further, giving the

concentration of poverty numbers for different types of

areas within regions. Both tables show the concentration of

poverty in 2000 and 2007–2011 and the change between

those dates for all persons, whites, blacks, and Hispanics. A

number of interesting facts emerge from the two tables.

Concentration of poverty increased 6 percentage points

in the Midwest and 3 points in the south, but was mostly

unchanged elsewhere. Black concentration of poverty

rose rapidly in the Midwest, but actually declined in the

northeast and West. Hispanic concentration of poverty

more than doubled in the Midwest, but declined by 3

percentage points in the Northeast.

Overall, concentration of poverty in metropolitan areas

increased from 11.6 percent to 14.1 percent, but there was

a lot of variation by metropolitan area size. Consistent

with the numbers for census tracts and population,

concentration of poverty rose the fastest in small to midsize

metropolitan areas, those with fewer than 1 million

persons. The increases were largest in the North Central

region, where smaller metropolitan areas increased 7 to 11

percentage points, followed by the Northeast increasing 5

to 11 percentage points. It is important to recognize that

these smaller areas had much lower rates of concentration

of poverty in 2000 than larger metropolitan areas, so that

on a percentage basis, these increases are enormous. For

example, concentration of poverty more than doubled for

metropolitan areas in the Northeast region with between

250,000 and 500,000 persons and in the North Central

region for areas with 500,000 to 1 million residents

In contrast to smaller metropolitan areas, metropolitan

areas larger than 1 million persons (the two top categories)

had much smaller increases or even decreases in some

regions and for some groups. For example, concentration

of poverty in the largest metropolitan areas declined 4.7

percentage points for blacks and 7.2 percentage points

for Hispanics in the Northeast, driven by declines in New

York. The regional exception is metropolitan areas of 1 to 3

million persons in the North Central region, which had an

average increase of 9.1 percentage points. 4

Another way to visualize the trends by metropolitan

area size is shown in Figure 10 (see page 13), showing

scatterplots of the overall concentration of poverty by

metropolitan area size in 2000 and 2007–2011. The largest

metropolitan areas are about equally divided between

increases (above the diagonal) and (decreases below the

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 6. Change in Concentration of Poverty, All, 2000 to 2007-2011










-1.5% 8.5%










4% 3.7%

























Change, 2000 to

2007-2011 Total





+5 to 10

+0 to 5


Source: U.S. Census Bureau,

2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

Figure 7. Change in Concentration of Poverty, Non-Hispanic White, 2000 to 2007-2011










1.4% 4%




































Change, 2000 to

2007-2011 Total




+5 to 10

+0 to 5



Source: U.S. Census Bureau,

2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 8. Change in Concentration of Poverty, Black, 2000 to 2007-2011










-1.3 1.9




































Change, 2000 to

2007-2011 Total




+5 to 10

+0 to 5



Source: U.S. Census Bureau,

2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

Figure 9. Change in Concentration of Poverty, Hispanic, 2000 to 2007-2011










-9.9 -0.7




































Change, 2000 to

2007-2011 Total




+5 to 10

+0 to 5



Source: U.S. Census Bureau,

2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Table 5. Concentration of Poverty, by Region, Area Type, and Metropolitan Area Size, 2000 and 2007–2011


2000 2011 Chg. 2000 2011 Chg. 2000 2011 Chg. 2000 2011 Chg.

UNITED STATES 10.3 12.8 2.5 4.1 6.8 2.7 18.6 22.6 4.1 13.8 15.0 1.3


Northeast 13.8 14.3 0.5 4.8 7.1 2.3 24.7 23.6 -1.1 24.9 21.8 -3.1

N. Central 9.1 15.1 6.1 4.4 8.6 4.1 20.6 32.5 11.8 5.0 12.5 7.4

South 10.0 12.9 2.9 3.7 6.1 2.3 16.6 20.1 3.5 13.4 15.9 2.4

West 9.1 9.7 0.6 4.0 5.7 1.7 14.4 11.7 -2.7 11.0 12.2 1.2


Metropolitan Areas 11.6 14.1 2.5 5.1 8.0 2.9 19.9 23.4 3.4 14.4 15.8 1.4

More than 3 million 14.8 13.7 -1.1 5.0 6.5 1.5 23.7 20.3 -3.4 16.3 15.0 -1.2

1 to 3 million 8.9 11.7 2.8 3.0 5.5 2.5 19.6 23.8 4.2 6.5 9.6 3.1

500,000 to 1 million 12.9 17.2 4.4 5.1 8.9 3.7 15.2 25.1 9.9 23.6 24.6 1.0

250,000 to 500,000 10.2 16.0 5.8 4.9 9.1 4.2 19.5 28.1 8.6 14.2 21.1 6.9

Less than 250,000 11.2 15.9 4.6 9.3 12.6 3.2 15.3 23.5 8.2 12.2 17.8 5.7

Micropolitan Areas 6.3 9.6 3.2 2.3 5.5 3.2 14.2 22.5 8.3 8.8 8.8 0.0

Small/Rural Areas 3.6 4.2 0.6 1.2 1.4 0.2 6.3 11.2 4.9 4.9 2.8 -2.1

Note: Areas that have increased 100 percent or more are in bold.

Source: Census Bureau, 2000 Census, Summary File 3, and 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

diagonal). The smaller size categories, especially 250,000

to 500,000 and 500,000 to 1 million, are dominated

by increases in concentration of poverty. As a result of

these contrary trends, the size gradient of concentrated

poverty has nearly evaporated. With the exception of

the South, metropolitan area size was strongly associated

with concentrated poverty in 2000, but by 2011 there is

no discernible relationship between population level

and concentration of poverty. Even micropolitan areas

experienced a doubling of the rates of concentrated

poverty for both whites and blacks in the Midwest.

The concentration of white poverty increased in virtually

every region and size category, consistent with the statelevel

maps. While the absolute size of the increase was

relatively small, averaging 2.7 percentage points nationally,

the increases were large in relation to the low level of

concentrated poverty for whites at the beginning of the

decade. Indeed, concentration of poverty doubled for

whites in several metropolitan-size categories (shown in

bold in Table 6). Blacks and Hispanics, on the other hand,

had enormous increases in some areas and significant

declines in others. In particular, concentration of black

and Hispanic poverty more than doubled in smaller

metropolitan areas and micropolitan areas in the Midwest.

A number of individual metropolitan areas have very

high levels of concentrated poverty. Table 7 and Table

8 (see page 14) show the metropolitan areas with the

highest levels of concentrated poverty for blacks and

Hispanics, respectively. For blacks, the list is dominated

by metropolitan areas in the Midwest, such as Detroit,

where 47 percent of the black poor live in high poverty

neighborhoods, followed by Milwaukee (46 percent), Gary

(43 percent), and so on. A few southern metropolitan areas

score high as well, such as Tallahassee (39 percent), Mobile

(37 percent), and Memphis (36 percent). Not surprisingly,

Southwestern and Western metropolitan areas rank the

highest in Hispanic concentration of poverty, exemplified

by Laredo, Texas, where 55 percent of the Hispanic poor

live in census tracts with poverty levels of 40 percent or

more. One notable exception is Philadelphia, ranking third,

where 50 percent of the Hispanic poor live in high-poverty


The Declustering of Concentration

Ironically, the concentration of poverty has itself become

deconcentrated, in a sense. In 1990 and the years prior to

that, most high-poverty census tracts in a metropolitan

area could be found in one or two main clusters. These

huge high-poverty neighborhoods—such Bedford-

Stuyvesant, Harlem, the South Side of Chicago, North

Philadelphia, and Watts—have become embedded in the

public consciousness as iconic representations of urban

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Table 6. Concentration of Poverty, by Region, Area Type, and Metropolitan Area Size, 2000 and 2007–2011


2000 2011 Chg. 2000 2011 Chg. 2000 2011 Chg. 2000 2011 Chg.



More than 3 million 22.4 19.1 -3.4 9.2 12.5 3.4 29.4 24.7 -4.7 30.8 23.6 -7.2

1 to 3 million 9.2 11.5 2.3 3.3 4.9 1.6 19.5 21.8 2.3 14.9 16.1 1.2

500,000 to 1 million 8.9 14.9 6.0 4.5 8.2 3.7 16.0 25.1 9.1 18.3 23.8 5.6

250,000 to 500,000 8.0 18.6 10.5 3.6 8.1 4.5 17.1 28.9 11.8 17.0 37.3 20.2

Less than 250,000 8.2 12.8 4.6 8.1 12.0 3.9 5.7 15.4 9.7 4.9 9.6 4.8

Micropolitan 2.0 2.7 0.7 1.9 2.5 0.6 7.6 8.0 0.4 1.3 2.4 1.1

Small/Rural Areas 1.0 0.0 -1.0 1.1 0.0 -1.1 1.2 0.0 -1.2 0.0 0.0 0.0



More than 3 million 13.2 13.3 0.1 3.4 4.5 1.1 25.6 25.8 0.2 5.0 6.7 1.7

1 to 3 million 12.1 21.2 9.1 4.3 10.1 5.7 21.5 35.0 13.5 7.5 24.3 16.9

500,000 to 1 million 7.5 18.2 10.6 4.8 11.8 7.0 14.5 35.2 20.7 4.0 13.6 9.6

250,000 to 500,000 9.3 17.8 8.5 6.3 11.5 5.2 17.9 39.8 21.8 6.6 16.5 10.0

Less than 250,000 11.3 18.4 7.1 10.6 15.3 4.7 15.1 32.5 17.4 7.6 15.6 8.0

Micropolitan 2.9 7.0 4.0 2.8 6.1 3.3 7.1 17.8 10.7 1.1 5.1 4.0

Small/Rural Areas 2.4 2.4 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.0 9.7 9.8 0.1 0.6 0.8 0.2



More than 3 million 7.6 10.5 3.0 1.2 3.2 1.9 17.2 15.5 -1.7 2.8 11.5 8.7

1 to 3 million 10.4 11.5 1.1 2.7 4.3 1.6 20.7 20.6 -0.1 5.9 9.6 3.7

500,000 to 1 million 17.2 19.3 2.2 5.1 7.1 2.0 14.4 21.5 7.2 37.2 32.6 -4.6

250,000 to 500,000 12.1 16.2 4.1 3.8 7.5 3.7 20.7 25.7 5.0 21.0 23.7 2.8

Less than 250,000 12.9 17.1 4.1 10.5 12.5 2.0 15.7 21.6 5.9 14.6 22.3 7.7

Micropolitan 7.6 12.1 4.5 1.6 5.8 4.2 14.7 23.2 8.5 14.7 11.3 -3.4

Small/Rural Areas 3.6 5.2 1.5 2.0 2.6 0.6 6.3 11.4 5.1 7.5 3.8 -3.7



More than 3 million 12.9 12.0 -0.8 4.4 5.0 0.6 19.3 14.3 -5.0 14.9 14.3 -0.6

1 to 3 million 3.5 3.9 0.4 1.7 2.3 0.6 7.0 6.8 -0.2 3.9 4.3 0.4

500,000 to 1 million 13.2 15.2 2.0 6.4 8.8 2.4 22.5 19.4 -3.1 15.8 19.5 3.7

250,000 to 500,000 6.7 12.2 5.5 6.8 10.6 3.8 3.1 11.6 8.6 6.1 14.3 8.2

Less than 250,000 8.7 11.5 2.8 5.8 8.7 2.8 15.4 12.7 -2.8 11.5 15.3 3.8

Micropolitan 9.5 9.8 0.3 3.9 6.2 2.3 7.5 16.6 9.1 3.7 7.4 3.7

Small/Rural Areas 7.4 5.9 -1.5 0.2 0.2 0.0 1.0 1.5 0.5 0.5 1.6 1.1

Note: Areas that have increased 100 percent or more are in bold.

Source: Census Bureau, 2000 Census, Summary File 3, and 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 10. Concentration of Poverty, Metropolitan Level, by Metropolitan Area Size, 2000 and 2007-2011

More than 3 million

1 to 3 million

500,000 to 1 million

Concentration 2011

5.6 25.0


Dallas Minneapolis



Los Angeles





New York

Concentration 2011

0.0 42.1


Concentration 2011

0.0 31.7

5.6 22.8

Concentration 2000

0.0 22.5

Concentration 2000

0.0 31.7

Concentration 2000

250,000 to 500,000

Fewer than 250,000


Concentration 2011

0.0 47.7

Concentration 2011

0.0 53.9

Concentration 2011

5.6 22.8



0.0 38.3

Concentration 2000

0.0 49.5

Concentration 2000

5.6 22.8

Concentration 2000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Census, Summary File 3, and 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

poverty. But in the more recent data, even though the

number of high-poverty census tracts has returned to levels

comparable to 1990, the individual high-poverty tracts are

more decentralized and less clustered.

Figure 11 (see page 16), for example, shows the Detroit

Metropolitan Area’s borderline and high-poverty tracts

in 1990 and in 2005–2009, comparing two periods of

time in which the national number of high-poverty tracts

was roughly equal. There is a marked movement of the

high-poverty tracts away from the downtown core, and

very noticeable spatial fragmentation of the tracts in both

categories. Figure 12 and Figure 13 (see pages 17 and 18)

reveal the same spatial reorganization in Chicago and

Dallas–Ft. Worth respectively.

Given that visual assessment of map patterns can be

impressionistic, a more systematic method of evaluating

the spatial distribution of tract poverty rates is needed.

The Global Moran’s I statistic is a measure of spatial

autocorrelation; that is, spatial clustering. 5 Table 9 (see

page 19) shows Moran’s I for census tract poverty rates

for a number of major metropolitan areas using all census

tracts in each metropolitan area. The calculation compares

the poverty rate of each tract with the poverty rates in

contiguous tracts. In virtually all the metropolitan areas,

clustering declined between 1990 and the more recent

period. Out of 22 metropolitan areas with decreases in

clustering, the change was statistically significant at the p

< 0.10 level or better in 17; in the 2 areas with increases, the

change was not significant. The impression given by the

maps is confirmed in this broader analysis.

One caveat that should be mentioned here is that there

could be a systematic bias in the Moran’s I and the

visual appearance of the maps as a consequence of the

difference in data collection between the long form of

the Census and the American Communities Survey. The

collection of data over sixty months rather than a single

point in time may smooth out poverty rates in a way that

should reduce clustering. Moreover, smaller samples and

larger margins of error in the ACS may result in more

random noise in the poverty rate data, which could have

the same effect. Ultimately, this finding will have to be

assessed within one data source when a longer time series

of ACS data is available. On the other hand, the finding

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


of a more dispersed pattern of poor neighborhoods is

consistent with the finding that many iconic ghettos have

become essentially gentrified. 6 It is also consistent with the

trend towards greater levels of poverty in the suburbs. 7

A Disproportionate Burden

Despite some spreading out of high-poverty

neighborhoods noted above, and an increase in the

share of the poor living in the suburbs, the overwhelming

majority of the burden of concentrated poverty is borne

by a small number of cities within sprawling metropolitan

areas. Of the 193 high-poverty census tracts in the New

York metropolitan area—officially the “New York–White

Plains–Wayne Metropolitan Division”—165 are in New

York City, containing more than 90 percent of the area’s

high-poverty neighborhood residents, as shown in Table

Table 7. Metropolitan Areas with Highest Concentration of Poverty among Blacks,* 2007–2011



All census High-poverty %

tracts census tracts

Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn 740,857 255,604 119,241 46.7


West Allis

249,887 90,790 41,651 45.9

Gary 128,695 40,938 17,718 43.3

Dayton 118,593 36,692 15,310 41.7


167,549 52,876 21,908 41.4


Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor 404,029 130,052 52,298 40.2

Rochester 115,744 39,323 15,601 39.7

Tallahassee 109,516 36,020 14,072 39.1

Mobile 139,119 43,854 16,309 37.2

Memphis 575,969 169,947 60,302 35.5

*Metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 black residents.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau , 2007–2011American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

Table 8. Metropolitan Areas with the Highest Concentration of Poverty among Hispanics,* 2007–2011



All census High-poverty %

tracts census tracts

Laredo 231,791 72,530 39,647 54.7



679,813 256,592 133,191 51.9

Philadelphia 279,249 88,077 43,686 49.6

Brownsville-Harlingen 347,338 132,341 64,363 48.6

Las Cruces 131,715 42,124 16,005 38.0

Camden 108,685 24,129 8,748 36.3

Fresno 450,052 137,048 46,013 33.6

Visalia-Porterville 257,929 79,081 26,371 33.3

El Paso 637,099 178,773 52,555 29.4

Milwaukee-Waukesha- 140,301 34,363 10,056 29.3

West Allis

Bakersfield-Delano 385,415 108,451 31,434 29.0

Hartford-West Hartford- 141,315 39,665 11,273 28.4

East Hartford

Tucson 325,318 82,134 19,290 23.5

*Metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 Hispanic residents.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau , 2007–2011American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


10 (see page 20). Another 8 of the 193 high-poverty

tracts were in Paterson, New Jersey, home to another 3.6

percent of the residents. A handful of other cities had one

or two high-poverty tracts, housing small percentages of

the area’s high poverty population. Fully 208 cities, towns,

villages, boroughs, and other miscellaneous jurisdictions

of the sprawling New York metropolitan area had zero

high-poverty census tracts and bore none of the burden of

concentrated poverty.

The pattern is repeated in many metropolitan areas. Table

6 shows only the three largest metropolitan areas. In the

Los Angeles–Long Beach–Glendale Metropolitan area,

the first two named cities have 94 of the area’s 111 highpoverty

census tracts and more than 90 percent of the

high poverty population. Eight cities have the rest, and 151

jurisdictions have zero concentrated poverty. In Chicago–

Joliet–Naperville, 97 of the 115 tracts and 88 percent of the

high-poverty population are in the city of Chicago. DeKalb

and Joliet account for most of the rest, and 404 other

places had zero high-poverty census tracts. Minneapolis

and St. Paul together account for 99.6 percent of the

Twin Cities metropolitan area’s high-poverty population.

Baltimore (99 percent), Philadelphia (96 percent), and

Washington (92 percent) are other examples of cities

with a vastly disproportionate of their metropolitan areas’

concentrated poverty problem.

Figure 14 (see page 21) illustrates the issue dramatically.

It shows the full extent of the Philadelphia and Camden

metropolitan divisions. The borders of the two principal

cities are outlined. Suburbs that have sprawled outward

from these two cities for decades are also shown, including

Cherry Hill and Mt. Laurel on the New Jersey side and

the wealthy suburbs of the “main line” on the Pennsylvania

side. The overwhelming majority of the high-poverty

neighborhoods are located within the two core cities.

Indeed, they dominate the city of Camden. Given the

vast expanse of low-poverty areas that surround these two

cities, it is not hard to imagine a different outcome if those

suburbs had developed a fair share of affordable housing

from the beginning.

A large contributing factor to concentrated poverty is

suburban development centered on exclusionary zoning

and public infrastructure subsidies. 8 By developing

metropolitan regions in this way, we ensure that some

cities and suburbs prosper while others suffer and bear a

disproportionate burden of the social and economic costs

of concentrated poverty. While we cannot ensure that all

children will grow up in neighborhoods that are equal, just

as we cannot expect all families to be equal, we should

not be actively engaging in development policies that

guarantee such vast disparities in children’s neighborhood


Why the Spatial Dimension of Poverty Is


When poverty is discussed, the mental image that

often comes to mind is the inner-city, and particularly

high-poverty ghettos and barrios in the largest cities.

Many people implicitly assume, incorrectly, that most of

the nation’s poor can be found in these often troubled

neighborhoods. Yet, most poor families are more focused

on their own lack of adequate resources to obtain

necessary goods and services than on conditions in the

neighborhood. The federal poverty line reflects this

prioritization, by highlighting only the comparison of an

individual family’s income with a fixed dollar amount that

is supposed to represent a basic level of consumption.

The poverty of a family’s neighbors does not factor into

the calculation, and it is not included in federal poverty


For many poor families, however, the problems of poverty

include concerns that have a neighborhood basis, such as

the quality of housing, the effectiveness of schools, and the

prevalence of crime, drugs, and violence. Neighborhood

characteristics affect the day-to-day quality of life, and

may also hinder poor families as they seek to cope with

and work their way out of poverty. Given the susceptibility

of children to peer influences, the spatial organization of

poverty is particularly detrimental for poor families with

school-age children.

For all these reasons, many of the landmark studies of

poverty over the years have had a geographic focus,

examining the problems of poverty in the context of

high-poverty neighborhoods. Kenneth Clark’s Dark

Ghetto (1965), Elliot Liebow’s Talley’s Corner (1967),

Gerald Suttles’ The Social Order of the Slum (1968), and

Lee Rainwater’s Behind Ghetto Walls (1970) are just a

few of the classic works that framed their exploration of

the causes and effects of poverty through the lens of

particular urban neighborhoods. The Kerner Commission,

in discussing the causal factors of the urban riots of the

1960s, clearly indicted structural factors and systemic racial

discrimination in creating black poverty, but also pointed

to the role of urban ghettos. “The image of success in

this world,” they wrote, “is not that of the ‘solid citizen,’

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 11. Declustering of Detroit’s High-Poverty Neighborhoods






Detroit, MI

Year: 1990

Poverty Rate


No data



40% or more

Central City Boundary





Detroit, MI

Year: 2005-2009

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1990 Census, Summary File 3, and 2005-2009 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 12. The Declustering of Chicago’s High Poverty Neighborhoods




Chicago, IL

Year: 1990


Poverty Rate

No data



40% or more

Central City Boundary




Chicago, IL

Year: 2005-2009


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1990 Census, Summary File 3, and 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 13. The Declustering of High-Poverty Neighborhoods in Dallas-Ft. Worth







Dallas- Forth Worth, TX

Year: 1990


Poverty Rate

No data



40% or more

Central City Boundary







Dallas- Forth Worth, TX

Year: 2005-2009


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1990 Census, Summary File 3, and 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Table 9. Spatial Autocorrelation of Poverty (Global Moran’s I)


Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 0.62 0.43 -0.16** 4.63

Boston-Quincy, MA 0.40 0.47 -0.01 0.30

Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA 0.40 0.36 -0.12* 2.31

Camden, NJ 0.54 0.38 -0.33** 6.43

Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL 0.62 0.51 -0.17** 7.63

Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX 0.55 0.41 -0.19** 5.45

Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI 0.59 0.63 -0.07+ 1.89

Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 0.53 0.47 -0.14** 2.81

Gary, IN 0.58 0.62 0.08 1.09

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 0.53 0.40 -0.11** 3.53

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA 0.59 0.52 -0.08** 3.73

Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL 0.53 0.46 -0.12* 2.27

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 0.61 0.58 -0.05 1.57

Newark-Union, NJ-PA 0.67 0.54 -0.06 1.61

New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ 0.58 0.47 -0.15** 9.08

Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA 0.52 0.41 -0.12** 3.06

Philadelphia, PA 0.63 0.59 0.02 0.54

Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ 0.52 0.45 -0.08* 2.01

Riverside-San Bernandino-Ontario, CA 0.35 0.27 -0.06 1.37

San Franscisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA 0.24 0.28 -0.05 1.02

Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA 0.31 0.27 -0.07+ 1.94

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA 0.37 0.32 -0.15** 3.64

Tacoma, WA 0.40 0.31 -0.19* 2.48

Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI 0.39 0.35 -0.12** 3.17

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 0.51 0.43 0.00 0.09

Wilmington, DE-MD-NJ 0.29 0.34 0.00 0.05

* p < 0.01, ** p < 0.05, + p < 0.10

Note: Conceptualization of spatial relationships method: polygon contiguity (first order).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau , 2007–2011American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Table 10. Distribution of Concentrated Poverty across Jurisdictions within Metropolitan Areas, 2007–2011








New York 165 627,937 90.5

Paterson 8 25,064 3.6

Passaic 2 10,873 1.6

Monsey 2 7,909 1.1

New Square 2 6,668 1.0

Jersey City 1 3,996 0.6

Yonkers 1 3,883 0.6

Ossining 2 2,983 0.4

Kaser 2 2,702 0.4

Remainder of Mount Pleasant 1 558 0.1

Totowa 1 409 0.1

Hillcrest 1 316 0.0

Remainder of Bedford 1 228 0.0

Remainder of Ramapo 1 213 0.0

Remainder of Cortlandt 1 140 0.0

208 remaining cites/towns/places zero zero 0.0


Los Angeles 86 315,506 85.5

Long Beach 9 18,713 5.1

Pomona 3 10,302 2.8

Palmdale 3 8,160 2.2

Huntington Park 1 4,284 1.2

Westmont 1 3,667 zero

Lancaster 1 2,929 0.8

Compton 1 2,786 0.8

Inglewood 1 2,430 0.7

Remainder of Los Angeles 1 407 0.1

151 remaining cities/towns/places zero zero zero


Chicago 97 229,302 87.9

DeKalb 3 11,092 4.3

Joliet 3 87,77 3.4

Harvey 2 5,295 2

Chicago Heights 2 3,374 1.3

Robbins 1 1,106 0.4

Blue Island 1 1,077 0.4

Remainder of DeKalb 2 653 0.3

Markham 1 289 0.1

404 remaining cities/towns/places zero zero zero

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 14. Philadelphia and Camden Metropolitan Areas, 2007–2011


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007–2011 American Community Survey, 5 Year Estimates.

Philadelphia and Camden

Metropolitan Areas

Year: 2007-2011

Poverty Rate




the responsible husband and father, but rather of the

‘hustler’ who takes care of himself by exploiting others.”

They described the behavioral effects of growing up in “an

environmental jungle characterized by personal insecurity

and tension.” 9

William Julius Wilson’s The Truly Disadvantaged (1987),

based on the high-poverty community areas in Chicago,

inspired a new generation of scholars to be concerned with

the problems associated with the spatial concentration

of poverty. In particular, he posited the existence of

“concentration effects” that emerge when the poverty

level in a neighborhood exceeded a threshold level.

Wilson argued that these effects independently contribute

to the perpetuation of poverty and helped to produce

neighborhoods with high levels of crime and violence and

low levels of high-school completion, marriage, and labor

force attachment. For example, Wilson argued that, in the

high-poverty neighborhoods he studied,

children will seldom interact on a sustained

basis with people who are employed or with

families that have a steady breadwinner. The

next effect is that joblessness, as a way of

life, takes on a different social meaning; the

relationship between schooling and post-school

employment takes on a different meaning. The

development of cognitive, linguistic, and other

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


educational and job-related skills necessary

for the world of work in the mainstream

economy is thereby adversely affected. In such

neighborhoods, therefore, teachers become

frustrated and do not teach and children do not

learn. A vicious cycle is perpetuated through

the family, through the community, and through

the schools. 10

Through such mechanisms, residence in high-poverty

neighborhoods exacerbates the problems of poverty. For

a given person with low income, residence in a ghetto

or barrio community makes it harder for adults to find

employment and harder for children to develop the skills

to succeed. The high levels of crime, low quality of public

services, and social spillover effects imposes a tremendous

burden on families that the federal poverty line alone

cannot measure.

Consequences of Concentrated Poverty

In addition to the lack of role models for children, there

are many other deleterious effects of living in highpoverty

neighborhoods over and above the negative

consequences of a lack of sufficient income. Lowincome

neighborhoods have lower levels of education

and employment, as well as higher rates of poverty,

single-parent families, and other social problems. These

characteristics may be compositional rather than causal; in

other words, people with those characteristics may migrate

into high-poverty areas to obtain cheap housing, or people

who lack those characteristics may move out. From a policy

perspective, however, the important question is whether

these concentrations of poverty have dynamic effects on

residents. Increasing evidence suggests that they do.

The poor are disproportionately concentrated in central

cities due to the housing price gradient and exclusionary

zoning, reinforced by continued racial segregation and

discrimination in housing markets. While many jobs

remain in the central city, especially high-skill jobs, the

largest number and fastest growth of jobs appropriate for

workers with lower skill levels are found in the suburbs. 11 As

a result, the poor, particularly the minority poor, suffer from

a spatial mismatch that separates them from opportunities

for employment and advancement.

Given racial and economic constraints on the housing

mobility of low-income people, spatial mismatch may

contribute to unemployment and low wages in the

following ways. First, the difficulty and expense of a “reverse

commute” lowers the effective wage rate and increases

the probability that the commute will be unsustainable.

Second, information about jobs may be less likely to

reach into inner-city neighborhoods that have few social,

political, or economic ties to the suburbs. Third, employers

in suburbs may exercise more racial discrimination in

hiring, either because of their own biases or out of concern

for customer reactions, because they operate in the

predominantly white environment of the suburbs. Fourth,

residents of inner-city neighborhoods may fear that they

will be treated unfairly and viewed with suspicion in the

suburban labor market, reducing the incentives to seek out

suburban jobs and endure long commutes. 12

Concentration of poverty has implications for

educational outcomes because schools are creatures of

neighborhoods. 13 Often, the relationship is legally encoded

in school attendance zone boundaries. Even for schools

that draw on larger and less precise areas, such as magnet

and charter schools, commuting time and transportation

costs often restrict attendance to those who live relatively

nearby. Schools usually closely reflect the racial and

economic composition of the surrounding community.

When they do differ, public schools will tend to have a

greater proportion of minority and low-income children,

due to life-cycle differences and differential selection into

private schools and home schooling. Thus, schools are

often even more segregated by race and income than is

the surrounding community.

As a result, when poor families reside in different

neighborhoods than middle- and upper-income families,

their children will likely attend different schools than more

affluent children. Over time, the schools themselves

become different. Schools in poorer neighborhoods have

greater needs than schools with more advantaged children.

Teachers and school administrators may develop lower

academic expectations when they deal predominantly

with poor children, many of whom do not have resources

or support in the home. In some inner-city schools, working

hard and getting good grades is derided as “acting white.”

Even students who resist caving in to peer pressure may still

be impeded in learning if enough classmates are disruptive

and slow the pace of instruction. These so-called peer

effects on students have been documented in a number

of carefully controlled studies. 14 Over and above peer

effects, neighborhood conditions have spillover effects on

academic achievement. 15

A variety of studies have found that neighborhoods

matter for child and adolescent development across a

variety of developmental outcomes. 16 For example, a

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


child’s IQ at thirty-six months of age is related to the

presence of affluent families in the child’s neighborhood

after controlling for family income, mother’s education,

family structure, and race. 17 Girls with fewer affluent

neighbors initiated sexual activity earlier and were more

likely to have out-of-wedlock birth, again controlling for

family characteristics. 18 Children with a high proportion

of poor neighbors have more behavioral problems, lower

self-esteem, and more symptoms of depression. 19

The concentration of poverty often makes for an unhealthy

environment with few parks and recreational resources,

greater pollution, more alcohol outlets, more advertising

for alcohol and tobacco, and less availability of healthy

foods. 20 Residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods suffer

higher rates of communicable diseases like tuberculosis, 21

premature birth, 22 self-report of poor health, 23 diabetes, 24

and obesity. 25 Residence in economically and socially

isolated census tracts increases the probability that

adolescents will engage in health-risk behaviors. 26


Poverty has largely reconcentrated since 2000, and more

people live in high-poverty neighborhoods today than

ever before. At the same time, concentration of poverty in

the new millennium is different than in 1990 and prior years

is several significant ways. The white poor, for example, are

increasingly likely to live in high-poverty areas, although

African-Americans and Hispanics still make up the bulk

of the population of these neighborhoods. Concentration

of poverty has grown fastest in small to mid-size

metropolitan areas, particularly in the Midwest. Within

metropolitan areas, almost all high-poverty neighborhoods

in metropolitan areas are found in a handful of cities—

principal cities and a few older, inner-ring suburbs—while

hundreds of other suburban areas have no high-poverty

areas. Yet within larger cities, high-poverty neighborhoods

are less clustered than they were in 1990, so that there are

more pockets of poverty.

The return to high levels of concentration of poverty

is troubling given the increasing body of evidence that

residing in high-poverty areas has independent effects

on child development, educational attainment, health,

and labor market outcomes. It is unclear whether the

new forms of concentrated poverty are better or worse

than the past. The fact that fewer high-poverty areas are

dominated by a single racial group means that there has

been a slight decoupling of racial and economic isolation.

Does that ameliorate the negative effects of residing in

a high-poverty neighborhood? Moreover, is it better or

worse to live in a small pocket of poverty rather than a

large agglomeration of high-poverty tracts? On the one

hand, the person in the larger poverty area may be more

isolated from the social and economic mainstream. On the

other hand, the person in the smaller pocket of poverty

may have a hard time accessing social services and may

be less likely to be able to draw on social capital. Groups

like the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation

would be less likely to form, and would find it harder to

be successful, in a more dispersed pattern of high-poverty


While the differences in the location, demographic

composition, and spatial patterns of high-poverty areas

are interesting, the primary finding of this paper is the

rapid increase in the prevalence of such neighborhoods,

undoing the progress of the 1990s. More research

is needed on the factors that drive these changes,

capitalizing on the variation in the levels and trends in

concentrated poverty among metropolitan areas. In

particular, we need to understand how changes in zoning,

housing subsidies, growth management, and other public

policies could reduce poverty concentration. The housing

units and suburban communities that we have already built

are not going to go away, but that is all the more reason

to fundamentally rethink how we build our metropolitan

regions going forward. The population of the United States

today is approximately 313 million. By 2050, the population

is projected to reach about 400 million—a 28 percent

increase. As a nation, we will have to build more than 30

million new housing units to accommodate this growth,

and millions more to replace older housing units that are

abandoned or torn down. We have to choose whether to

build these new units in the same fragmented, segregated

patterns as in past decades, or whether we will begin to

move towards a society in which there is less socioeconomic

differentiation between communities. The decisions we

make or fail to make about metropolitan development will

go a long way to determining whether all citizens will have

access to quality housing, safe neighborhoods, economic

opportunity, and quality education for their children.

Appendix: Data and Methodology

The data used in this analysis come from several different

sources. The first is the 1990 Census of Population and

Housing, Summary File 3 (SF3), and the corresponding file

for the 2000 Census. These data are based on the “long

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


form” of the Census that includes questions about income.

These questions are asked of a one in seven sample of the

entire country at a point in time (April 15 of the Census

year). The long form was given to about 1 in 7 of the

nation’s 100 million households, and asked about income

among many other things. 27 With millions of responses,

the long form generated sufficiently large samples for

most of the nation’s 65,000 census tracts to generate

useful poverty estimates. Virtually all quantitative work

on the prevalence of and trends in concentrated poverty

used long form data in one level of aggregation or another:

block groups, census tracts, zip codes, minor civil divisions,

and so on. The current population survey and other broad

national surveys simply do not have sufficient numbers of

respondents to estimate poverty at the census tract level.

The “long form” of the decennial census was discontinued

after the 2000 Census. The American Communities

Survey (ACS) is the replacement for the Census long

form. Compared to the long form, the ACS surveys a

much smaller number of households in any given year.

However, unlike the census, new samples are conducted

each month of the year. The ACS releases data annually,

but for small geographies like census tracts, the annual data

release consists of sixty-month (five year) rolling averages

to protect the confidentiality of survey respondents. Three

waves of the ACS five-year data have now been released.

These surveys represent the sixty-month periods spanning

2005–2009, 2006–2010, and 2007–2011. In other words,

each new release of the ACS census tract data has four

years of overlap with the previous year’s release.

The benefit of the ACS approach to census tract data is

that researchers will have an annually updated time trend

on census tracts. There is a downside to the ACS tractlevel

data, however. In general, the ACS numbers based

on moving averages of sixty monthly samples are not

comparable to the point-in-time estimates from longform

census data. Poverty levels fluctuate, especially in

small areas, and some of the extremes of poverty may be

obscured by averaging over a longer period. For example,

imagine a metropolitan area where there are five high

poverty neighborhoods each and every month, but over

the course of time, the specific neighborhoods with high

poverty levels change due to gentrification displacing the

original poverty areas as shown in Figure 15 (see page 25).

When the data are aggregated over five years, it is possible

that zero neighborhoods will have poverty rates over 40

percent, on average, over the period. Thus, despite the

fact that a point in time estimate from any specific month

would have shown five poor neighborhoods, the five year

moving average could show no concentration of poverty.

The inescapable conclusion is that comparing the 2010

ACS census tract data to the 2000 Census long form data

can be problematic and possibly misleading. The sample

size per census tract is smaller as well, introducing a greater

degree of sampling error in the ACS data. 28 But there is no

alternative, and the problem of concentration of poverty

is too important to ignore because of changes in data

collection procedures.

Identifying Poor Neighborhoods

In general usage, the exact boundaries of a given

neighborhood are subjective and imprecise. Exceptions

include cities which have drawn official neighborhood

boundaries, as in Chicago, or places where whole

neighborhoods were built at once by a single developer,

often surrounded by a wall. These defined neighborhoods

are not consistent from place to place in terms of size

or sociodemographic consistency, they do not form a

complete coverage of the nation, and often there is no

consistent source of data on them. For this reason, the

research literature often uses census tracts as proxies for

neighborhoods. Census tracts are small administrative

units designated by the Census Bureau that on average

had about 4,300 residents in 2000. 29

A person is considered poor if he or she lives in a family

in which the total family income is below the poverty

threshold defined by the Census Bureau and adjusted

annually for inflation. Currently, the poverty threshold for

a family of four is about $23,000. 30 Typically, a census tract

is considered a high-poverty neighborhood if 40 percent

or more of the neighborhood’s residents are classified

as poor using the federal poverty definition. While any

specific threshold is inherently arbitrary, the 40 percent

level has become the standard in the literature and has

been incorporated in federal data analysis and program


Data from the 2000 Census show that this threshold is

a valid indication of the kind of neighborhood distress

described by Wilson. Table 11 (see page 26) shows that

the proportion of families with children that have a

married couple family structure is inversely correlated with

the neighborhood poverty level, as one would expect.

However, single parent families are not the dominant family

type until the neighborhood poverty level of 40 percent is

attained. This table does not distinguish cause and effect,

but it does indicate that in neighborhoods above the 40

percent threshold, single-parent families are the norm,

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Figure 15. Possible Bias in the American Communities Survey


in contrast to neighborhoods below the threshold where

married-couple families are the norm.

A similar finding applies to male employment and labor

force participation. The norm in most neighborhoods

is that adult males work in the mainstream labor market.

Table 12 (see page 26) shows, not surprisingly, that

male employment and labor force participation are

inversely correlated with neighborhood poverty level.

Nevertheless, in neighborhoods with poverty levels below

40 percent, more than half of adult males are employed. In

neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40 percent or more,

the norm for males is not to be employed. The majority

of males in high-poverty neighborhoods are either

unemployed or not in the labor force; that is, they are not

even looking for work. Table 11 and Table 12 (see page 26)

provide evidence for William Julius Wilson’s view of highpoverty

neighborhood contexts. A child growing up in a

high-poverty neighborhood lives in a world where single

parent families and lack of labor force attachment are the

norms. 31


The spatial concentration of poverty can be defined of

as the extent to which the poor in a given geographic

area disproportionately reside in very high-poverty

neighborhoods within that area. The larger area can be

the country as a whole, states, cities, and counties—in fact,

any geographic unit larger than the neighborhood unit.

While concentration of poverty can be calculated at many

geographic levels, the prevalence of poverty is a function of

the labor market and the availability of housing of different

economic levels is a function of the housing market. Such

markets do not necessarily respect the political boundaries

of cities and towns that were established and often fixed

long ago. Metropolitan areas, consisting of central urban

places and tightly linked suburbs, are specifically designed

to capture, as well as it is possible to do so, functional local

housing and labor markets. Hence, metropolitan areas

have been the unit of analysis for much prior work on the

concentration of poverty, and will be the central focus of

this analysis.

A consistent set of geographic boundaries was used for

all years in this analysis, covering the entire United States.

The country is divided in three types of areas: metropolitan

areas, micropolitan areas, and rural/small town areas as

described below. Metropolitan areas are defined as a core

county and contiguous counties that are closely related

in terms of commuting patterns and other criteria. A

metropolitan area has a core urban area with a population

of at least 50,000 residents. It also includes all counties

containing the core urban area and any adjacent counties

with a high degree of social and economic integration with

the urban core. Some very large metropolitan areas are

split into “metropolitan divisions,” such as Dallas and Ft.

Worth. I consider the metropolitan divisions as separate

areas in this analysis. 32 Based on the criteria employed by

the Census Bureau in 2010 and counting the divisions as

separate metropolitan areas, there are 384 metropolitan

areas comprising 84 percent of the U.S. population in

2010. The largest is the New York metropolitan division,

with a population of 11.6 million, and the smallest is Carson

City, Nevada, with a population of 55,000 as of the 2010


While most of the population lives in metropolitan areas,

there are many significant cities that are not part of larger

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


Table 11. Family Structure by Neighborhood Poverty

Level, 2000










0 to 4.9% 85.2 3.9 10.9

5 to 9.9% 76.7 6.1 17.2

10 to 14.9% 70.9 7.3 21.8

15 to 19.9% 66.0 7.8 26.2

20 to 29.9% 59.2 8.1 32.7

30 to 39.9% 50.0 8.1 41.9

40 to 49.9% 43.3 7.7 48.9

50 to 59.9% 36.3 6.5 57.1

60 to 69.9% 32.8 5.2 62.0

70 to 79.9% 14.6 4.4 81.0

80 to 89.9% 8.0 1.3 90.7

90 to 100% 11.2 4.4 84.4

Total 72.9 6.2 20.9

Note: Includes all families with children age 0–18.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Census, Summary File 3.

Table 12. Labor Force Status by Neighborhood

Poverty Level, 2000









0 to 4.9% 74.4 2.4 23.2

5 to 9.9% 69.9 3.2 26.9

10 to 14.9% 65.3 4.0 30.7

15 to 19.9% 62.2 4.8 33.0

20 to 29.9% 57.5 6.1 36.4

30 to 39.9% 51.3 8.0 40.7

40 to 49.9% 46.0 9.4 44.7

50 to 59.9% 41.5 11.3 47.2

60 to 69.9% 39.0 10.8 50.2

70 to 79.9% 34.7 13.7 51.6

80 to 89.9% 34.4 9.9 55.6

90 to 100% 17.9 18.8 63.3

Total 66.5 4.0 29.5

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Census, Summary File 3.

metropolitan agglomerations. These so-called micropolitan

areas have an urban core of at least 10,000 but less than

50,000 persons. These are cities like Lebanon, New

Hampshire, Gallup, New Mexico, and Eureka, California.

As is the case with metropolitan areas, a micropolitan area

includes the central counties and adjoining counties that

are closely linked to it. The largest micropolitan area is

Seaford, Delaware, with a population of 194,000, and the

smallest is Tallulah, Louisiana, with a population of 12,000.

There are 576 micropolitan areas that included about 10

percent of the U.S. population.

The remaining 6 percent of the U.S. population live in small

towns and rural areas. For the purpose of completeness,

these areas are included in the analysis, separately by

state. 33 Texas has the largest small town/rural population,

with 1.4 million persons not living in either a metropolitan

or micropolitan area. Four states—Connecticut, Delaware,

New Jersey, Rhode Island—are sufficiently urban that

there are no counties and zero persons so classified.

In this geographic scheme, every U.S. county is therefore

classified as metropolitan, micropolitan, or part of the small

town/rural remainder. These definitions are then applied

retroactively to the past census data from 1990 and 2000.

While the boundaries of cities and towns change frequently

due to mergers, splits, and annexations, county boundaries

change only rarely. Thus, the state and county codes of

the 2010 inventory of metropolitan and micropolitan areas

can be retroactively applied to the census tract data of

previous years. 34

For some purposes, it is useful to look at the political

jurisdictions that make up metropolitan areas. There is a

bewildering array of legal settlement types, governed by

state laws and categorized in different ways by the Census

Bureau for statistical purposes. Incorporated municipal

entities—cities, towns, and other forms of government—

are called “places” by the Census Bureau. Places—the

boundaries of which are determined politically—often do

not nest neatly within other geographic borders; a case in

point is New York City, which spans five counties. Census

tracts, the neighborhood units for this work, are often split

across the boundaries of places. To make matters worse,

some areas are unincorporated, or are treated as such

by the Census Bureau even though they seem to have a

functioning government. Thus, the “place” concept does

not form a complete coverage of the nation. “Minor civil

divisions” are an alternative statistical geography consisting

of counties or parts of counties corresponding to local

governance structures. But these entities chop up larger

cities, because they are required to nest within counties;

New York City, for example, appears as five separate units

in this scheme. For the local jurisdiction analysis presented

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


in Table 10, I constructed a synthetic geography, consisting

of places where they exist and are tabulated by the Census

Bureau (summary level 160), supplemented by minor civil

divisions for areas not tabulated in the place data (summary

level 070, excluding those within recognized places). This

forms a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive set

of local-level boundaries for the nation as a whole.

In the analysis of cities and towns within metropolitan areas,

split census tracts must be accounted for. In this analysis,

census tracts are categorized as high-poverty or not based

on the whole-tract poverty rate. The populations within

them are allocated to city or town in which they are located.

Race and Ethnicity

Comparisons over time based on census data are

complicated by changes in way the Census Bureau reports

race and ethnicity. In 2000 and beyond, the Census Bureau

allows respondents to choose more than one race category.

In practice, fewer than two percent of non-Hispanic

persons choose more than one race. The census considers

race to be a separate issue from Hispanic origin. Since the

questions are asked separately, persons of Hispanic origin

can be of any race. In practice, most persons who identify

themselves as Hispanic identify their race as either “White”

or “other race.” In this analysis, “Hispanic” refers to anyone

who identified as “Hispanic” regardless of race. “White,”

“Black,” and “Asian” refers to non-Hispanic persons who

identified those categories as their only racial group. Thus,

multi-racial persons are not included in the analysis. In the

1990 data, poverty status is not available for non-Hispanic

whites, so it is estimated. 35

About the Author

Paul A. Jargowsky is a professor of public policy and director, Center for Urban Research and Urban Education, at

Rutgers University–Camden, a senior research affiliate, National Poverty Center, at the University of Michigan, and a

Century Foundation Fellow. He has been involved in policy development at both the state and federal levels and was

a visiting scholar at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where he helped design the simulation model

used for welfare reform planning. His book, Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City (Russell Sage

Foundation, 1997), is a comprehensive examination of poverty at the neighborhood level in U.S. metropolitan areas

between 1970 and 1990.

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium



1. The total number of census tracts also increased by 11 percent from 2000 to 2007–2011, due to tracts being

split in areas of population growth in an effort to keep the average population of census tracts stable. These

new tracts, however, do not account for new high-poverty tracts, since they are usually formed in growing and

prosperous areas in the outer suburbs. Indeed, high-poverty tracts are more likely to be joined than split due to

population declines.

2. The number of white residents of high-poverty areas may be inflated in neighborhoods composed

primarily of college students in towns with large universities, such as College Station, Texas, Gainesville, Florida,

and Bloomington, Indiana. Students living in dorms are already excluded from this analysis, but students in

private housing are not. There is no easy way to disentangle students who are not living in group quarters, since

many universities are located in bona fide high-poverty areas, such as Temple University in North Philadelphia,

and students sometimes seek affordable housing in existing low-income neighborhoods. While the number

and population of white high-poverty neighborhoods may be in a sense overstated due to “student ghettos,”

the trend over time is not. In fact, the rate of increase in the number of white residents of high-poverty

neighborhoods is substantially higher in areas that have a less than average percentage of residents enrolled in

college or graduate school than in those with enlarged student populations.

3. Alaska and Hawaii are omitted for space reasons. Concentration of poverty is low or zero for most groups

in these two states.

4. The category includes the Cleveland, Detroit, and Indianapolis metropolitan areas, which all experienced

large increases in concentration of poverty.

5. P. A. P. Moran, “Notes on Continuous Stochastic Phenomena,” Biometrika 37, nos. 1/2 (1950): 17–23.

6. Lance Freeman, There Goes the Hood: Views of Gentrification from the Ground Up (Philadelphia: Temple

University Press, 2011); Derek S. Hyra, The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem

and Bronzeville (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); Sharon Zukin, et al. “New Retail Capital and

Neighborhood Change: Boutiques and Gentrification in New York City,” City and Community 8, no. 1 (2009):


7. Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube, Confronting Suburban Poverty in America (Washington, D.C.:

Brookings Institution Press, 2013).

8. Myron Orfield, Metropolitics: A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability (Washington, D.C.: Brookings

Institution Press, 1996).

9. National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil

Disorders (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), 262.

10. William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner-city, the Underclass and Public Policy (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1987).

11. M. A. Turner, “Residential Segregation and Employment Inequality,” Segregation: The Rising Costs for

America (New York: Routledge, 2008), 151–96.

12. Keith R. Ihlanfeldt and David L. Sjoquist, “The Geographic Mismatch between Jobs and Housing” The

Atlanta Paradox (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2000) 116–27; J. F. Kain, “Housing Segregation, Negro

Employment, and Metropolitan Decentralization,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 82 (1968.): 175–97; M. A.

Stoll, “Spatial Job Search, Spatial Mismatch, and the Employment and Wages of Racial and Ethnic Groups in

Los Angeles,” Journal of Urban Economics 46, no. 1 (1999):129–55.

13. Frank Levy, “The Future Path and Consequences of the U.S. Earnings/Education Gap,” Economic Policy

Review 1, no. 1 (1995): 35–41.

14. Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, Jacob M. Markman, and Steven G. Rivkin, “Does Peer Ability Affect

Student Achievement?” Journal of Applied Econometrics 18, no. 5(2003): 527–44; Anita A. Summers and

Barbara L. Wolfe, “Do Schools Make a Difference?” American Economic Review 67, no. 4 (1977): 639–52; Ron

W. Zimmer and Eugenia F. Toma, “Peer Effects in Private and Public Schools across Countries,” Journal of Policy

Analysis and Management 19, no. 1 (2000): 75–92.

15. Jon Crane, “Effects of Neighborhood on Dropping Out of School and Teenage Childbearing,” The

Urban Underclass (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1991), 299–320; Kyle Crowder and Scott J.

South, “Neighborhood Distress and School Dropout: The Variable Significance of Community Context,” Social

Science Research 32, no. 4 (2003): 659–98; Linda Datcher, “Effects of Community and Family Background on

Achievement,” Review of Economics and Statistics 64, no. 1 (1982): 32–41; Paul A. Jargowsky and Mohamed

El Komi, “Before or after the Bell? School Context and Neighborhood Effects on Student Achievement,” in

Neighborhood and Life Chances: How Place Matters in Modern America, ed. Harriet B. Newburger, Eugenie L.

Birch, and Susan M. Wachter (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 50–72.

16. Tama Leventhal and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, “The Neighborhoods They Live in: The Effects of

Neighborhood Residence on Child and Adolescent Outcomes,” Psychological Bulletin 126, no. 2 (2000): 309–


17. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Greg J. Duncan, Pamela Kato Klebanov, and Naomi Sealand, “Do Neighborhoods

Influence Child and Adolescent Development?” American Journal of Sociology 99, no. 2 (1993): 353–95, table 2.

18. Ibid.; Christopher R. Browning, Tama Leventhal, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, “Neighborhood Context and

Racial Differences in Early Adolescent Sexual Activity,” Demography 41, no. 4(2004): 697–720; Crane, “Effects

The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium


of Neighborhood on Dropping Out of School and Teenage Childbearing.”

19. P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale and Rachel A. Gordon, “Economic Hardship and the Development of Fiveand

Six-Year-Olds: Neighborhood and Regional Perspectives,” Child Development 67, no. 6 (1996): 3338–67;

P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Rachel A. Gordon, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Patricia Klebanov, Neighborhood

and Family Influences on the Intellectual and Behavioral Competence of Preschool and Early School-age Children

Context and Consequences for Children (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997).

20. Elizabeth M. Barbeau, Kathleen Y. Wolin, Elena N. Naumova, and Edith Balbach, “Tobacco Advertising in

Communities: Associations with Race and Class,” Preventive Medicine 40, no. 1 (2005): 16–22; Penny Gordon-

Larsen, Melissa C. Nelson, Phil Page, and Barry M. Popkin, “Inequality in the Built Environment Underlies Key

Health Disparities in Physical Activity and Obesity,” Pediatrics 117, no. 2 (2006): 417–24; D. P. Hackbarth et

al., “Collaborative Research and Action to Control the Geographic Placement of Outdoor Advertising of

Alcohol and Tobacco Products in Chicago,” Public Health Reports 116, no. 6 (2001): 558–67; Russell P. Lopez

and H. Patricia Hynes, “Obesity, Physical Activity, and the Urban Environment: Public Health Research Needs,”

Environmental Health 5, no. 1 (2006): 25; Jennifer Wolch, John Wilson, and Jed Fehrenbach, “Parks and Park

Funding in Los Angeles: An Equity-mapping Analysis,” Urban Geography 26, no. 1 (2005): 4–35.

21. Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, “Residential Segregation and the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases,” Social

Science and Medicine 51, no. 8 (2000): 1143–61.

22. Theresa L. Osypuk and Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, “Are Racial Disparities in Preterm Birth Larger in

Hypersegregated Areas?” American Journal of Epidemiology 167, no. 11 (2008): 1295–1304.

23. S. V. Subramanian, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, and Theresa L. Osypuk, “Racial Residential Segregation and

Geographic Heterogeneity in Black/white Disparity in Poor Self-rated Health in the US: a Multilevel Statistical

Analysis,” Social Science and Medicine 60, no. 8 (2005): 1667–79.

24. Jens Ludwig et al., “Neighborhoods, Obesity, and Diabetes—A Randomized Social Experiment,” New

England Journal of Medicine 365, no. 16 (2011): 1509–19.

25. Ibid.; Lopez and Hynes, “Obesity, Physical Activity, and the Urban Environment.”

26. Reanne Frank, and Eileen Bjornstrom, “A Tale of Two Cities: Residential Context and Risky Behavior

Among Adolescents in Los Angeles and Chicago,” Health and Place 17, no. 1 (2011): 67–77; Reanne Frank,

Magdalena Cerdá, and Maria Rendón, “Barrios and Burbs: Residential Context and Health-Risk Behaviors

among Angeleno Adolescents,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 48, no. 3 (2007): 283–300.

27. The remaining households received the short form, which asks for only a handful of data items and no

economic information. Starting with the 2010 Census, households receive only the short form.

28. The average unweighted sample count in Summary File 3 of the 2000 Census was 664 (from Table P2)

compared to 387 from the 2007–2011 ACS data (Table B00001).

29. “Census tracts are small, relatively permanent geographic entities within counties (or the statistical

equivalents of counties) delineated by a committee of local data users. Generally, census tracts have between

2,500 and 8,000 residents and boundaries that follow visible features. When first established, census tracts

are to be as homogeneous as possible with respect to population characteristics, economic status, and living

conditions.” (United States Bureau of the Census, Geographic Areas Reference Manual [Washington, D.C.: U.S.

Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, 1994].)

30. See “How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty,” United States Census Bureau website, http://www.

31. An alternative approach to measuring the concentration of poverty is to measure the exposure of the poor

to poverty using the Lieberson exposure/isolation index, P* (Douglas S. Massey and Mitchell L. Eggers, “The

Ecology of Inequality: Minorities and the Concentration of Poverty, 1970–1980,” American Journal of Sociology

95, no. 5 [1990]: 1153–88; Douglas S. Massey and Mary J. Fischer, “How Segregation Concentrates Poverty,”

Ethnic and Racial Studies 23, no. 4 [2000]: 670–91). The advantage of this measure is that it “makes use of

all information about a group’s distribution across income categories and neighborhoods, leading to a more

accurate description of the spatial situation of the poor” (Massey and Fischer, “How Segregation Concentrates

Poverty,” 675). The disadvantage is that it does not reflect the concern that concentration effects emerge when

neighborhood poverty is above a critical threshold (Paul A. Jargowsky, Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and

the American City [New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997], 23; Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged).

32. For example, the NewYork-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metropolitan area spans the states of New

York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and is comprised of four metropolitan divisions: 1) New York-White Plains-

Wayne, with a population of 11.6 million; 2) Nassau Suffolk, with a population of 2.8 million; 3) Edison-New

Brunswick, with a population of 2.3 million, and 4) Newark-Union, with a population of 2.1 million. Each of these

divisions is larger than most metropolitan areas and they are sufficiently distinct that it makes sense to treat them

separately in the analysis.

33. Unlike the other two categories, this residual category may consist of non-contiguous counties.

34. The exceptions are Broomfield County, Colorado, which was created out of parts of two other counties;

the county of Clifton Forge, Virginia, which was merged into another county; and Miami-Dade County, Florida,

which was merely rename and but received a new identification code as a result. In this analysis, the tracts in

Broomfield County tracts are consistently assigned to their metropolitan area as of the 2000 Census. The

Clifton Forge and Miami census tracts are recoded to the new county values.

35.The number of non-Hispanic white poor persons in 1990 is estimated by subtracting the identified Hispanic

poor and the poor of other races from the total number of poor persons, and likewise for the nonpoor.

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Page 108 of 134

Attachment C

Concentrated Poverty:

A Change In Course

Page 109 of 134


in Urban America


Concentrated Poverty:

AChange in Course

G. Thomas Kingsley and Kathryn L. S. Pettit

Poverty became

notably less

concentrated in the

1990s; the share of

metropolitan poor who

live in extreme-poverty

neighborhoods dropped

back to 12 percent in


From the late 1960s through the 1980s, the

trends seemed inexorable. Poverty became

more and more concentrated in inner city

neighborhoods and conditions in those

neighborhoods got worse and worse. Data

from the 2000 Census show that the 1990s

broke those trends:

Poverty became notably less concentrated

in the 1990s. The share of the metropolitan

poor who live in “extremepoverty

neighborhoods” (census tracts

with poverty rates of 40 percent or more)

had jumped from 13 to 17 percent in the

1980s but dropped all the way back to

12 percent in 2000. The share in “highpoverty

neighborhoods” (poverty rates

of 30 percent or more) increased from

25 to 31 percent in the 1980s but

dropped back to 26 percent in 2000.

The absolute number of poor people in

high-poverty neighborhoods grew

from 4.9 million in 1980 to 7.1 million

in 1990, but then decreased to 6.7 million

in 2000.

Compensating increases in the 1990s

occurred in neighborhoods with middlerange

poverty levels rather than in lowpoverty

areas. The share of all poor

people in tracts with poverty rates in the

20–30 percent range increased from 18 to

21 percent and that in the 10–20 percent

range from 27 to 29 percent, while that

in the 0–10 percent range grew by less

than 1 percent.

An increasing share of high-poverty

tracts are in the suburbs of the largest

100 metropolitan areas (15 percent in

2000, up from 11 percent in 1980), but

central cities of those metros still retain

a dominant if decreasing share (62 percent,

down from 67 percent in 1980).

The share in the nation’s 230 other metropolitan

areas remained about the same

over this period (22–23 percent).

The share of all high-poverty tracts with

predominantly (more than 60 percent)

African-American populations has declined

markedly since 1980 (dropping

from 48 percent to 39 percent), while

those that are predominantly Hispanic

went up from 13 to 20 percent and those

with no predominant race grew from

21 to 26 percent.

Changes in concentrated poverty are not

primarily due to population growth or

decline in a fixed set of neighborhoods.

Asurprising number of tracts move in

and out of high-poverty status each

decade. A full 27 percent of all highpoverty

tracts in 1990 saw reductions in

poverty that took them out of the category

by the end of the decade. This was

partially offset by tracts equal to 23 percent

of the 1990 total moving into the

category, yielding a net loss of 4 percent.

Even in the preceding decade, 17 percent

of the 1980 total saw sufficient declines

in poverty to move them out of the cate-

The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

gory by 1990. But that was offset

by tracts equal to a disturbing

58 percent of the total moving in,

largely explaining the sizeable net

gain in concentrated poverty in

that decade.

There was a nontrivial number

of exceptions to the general trend

in the 1990s. Poverty became

more concentrated in 17 of the

100 largest metropolitan areas:

eight in the Northeast (most were

predominantly white metros, such

as Albany, Hartford, and Worcester),

one farther south (Wilmington,

DE), and eight in the West

(mostly areas with large immigrant

populations, such as Los Angeles,

Bakersfield, and Stockton). Why

these places did not do better

warrants more study. The biggest

reductions in concentrated poverty

in the 1990s took place in the

Midwest (which had experienced

the biggest increases in the 1980s)

and in the South.

Conditions in neighborhoods in

the high-poverty category in 1990

generally improved in the 1990s.

For example, the share of adults

without a high school degree

dropped from 48 to 43 percent, the

share of families with children

headed by women dropped

from 53 to 49 percent, the share

of women over 16 who were working

went up from 40 to 42 percent,

and the share of households

receiving public assistance was

cut in half, from 24 percent to

12 percent.

However, conditions in other parts

of most metropolitan areas also

improved, so gaps in conditions

did not diminish much, if at all.

For example, the share of adults

without a high school degree in

high-poverty neighborhoods was

2.1 times the metropolitan average

in 1990 but went up to 2.3 times in

2000. On the other hand, the comparable

ratio for the share of families

with children headed by

women improved from 2.3 to 2.0,

and that for the share of women

over 16 who were working improved

from 0.7 to 0.8.

Purpose and Approach

That conditions in urban neighborhoods

can have important effects on

the lives of their residents has been

suspected for a very long time

(Burgess 1925) and confirmed by

researchers in a variety of ways over

the years (Ellen and Turner 1997). The

most vivid accounts are those of the

extreme poverty neighborhoods in

America’s largest cities in the last few

decades of the 20th century, most

prominently by William J. Wilson

(1987). Wilson’s story began by highlighting

how global trends led to significant

changes in the U.S. economy

in the 1970s and 1980s. Manufacturing

jobs, which had offered the most

promising career paths for lowerskilled

inner-city residents, dropped

significantly as a share of all employment

nationwide and, in absolute

terms, in many central cities.

In addition, rising incomes and

the passage and enforcement of fair

housing laws allowed large numbers

of middle-income families of color to

move out of the central cities to find

better housing in the suburbs. As a

result, the poor of racial and ethnic

minorities wound up much more

concentrated and isolated from mainstream

society. The families that

moved included most of those who

had run businesses in the old neighborhoods

or were otherwise regularly

employed in jobs with reasonable

wages. They were also those who had

been the mainstays of traditional

community institutions and social

networks. After their departure, the

young people left behind were growing

up in a different world, deprived

of the role models that healthy communities

inherently rely on to guide

future expectations for children. Their

parents were deprived of the natural

support networks that, among other

things, help people access new job

opportunities and do a better job of


Paul Jargowsky (1997) also

underlines how this “spatial concentration

of poor people acts to magnify

poverty and exacerbate its effects”

(p. 1). His thorough analysis of the

phenomenon revealed a dramatic

increase in the share of the poor living

in census tracts with poverty rates

of 40 percent or more from 1970

through 1990. But what has happened

since then? The release of data from

the 2000 Census permits researchers

to answer that question, and this brief

takes on part of that job.

Jargowsky (2003) has examined

the new data, again looking at

changes in the “extreme-poverty

neighborhoods.” Our orientation is

somewhat different. While we recognize

that the problems of the poor are

most serious in such neighborhoods,

they account for a very small proportion

of the nation’s poor (only 12 percent

in 2000). We think that we need

to learn more about the challenges

faced by the poor in other types of

neighborhoods as well. As a start, we

note how the distribution of the poor

in metropolitan areas has shifted over

the full range of poverty categories in

the past two decades.

We then present most of our findings

in relation to “high-poverty

neighborhoods,” defined as tracts

with poverty rates of 30 percent or

more. They account for more than

twice the poor population of the

extreme-poverty tracts alone (6.7 million

vs. 3.1 million), and they also

have scores on most indicators of

social and economic distress significantly

above metropolitan averages. 1

For example, the share of adults without

a high school degree is 45 percent

for the extreme-poverty tracts and

43 percent for the high-poverty tracts,

compared with the all-metropolitan

average of 19 percent. The share of

all families with children headed by


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

single females is 54 percent for the

extreme poverty tracts and 49 percent

for the high poverty tracts, compared

with an all-metropolitan average of

24 percent. But this is just a start.

Special conditions and challenges for

the poor in neighborhoods with even

lower poverty rates also warrant

future study.

After answering the basic question

(Did poverty get more or less

concentrated overall in the 1990s?),

this paper looks at three other questions

at the national level: (1) How

has the composition of concentrated

poverty shifted between different

types of locations (e.g., central cities

vs. suburbs)? (2) How has the composition

of concentrated poverty shifted

by race and ethnicity? and (3) How

have the changes taken place (e.g.,

how much is explained by tracts

moving in and out of high-poverty

status as opposed to populations

growing and declining in a relatively

fixed set of tracts)?

Then we recognize that the

changes have not been uniform

across the nation. We look at how

concentrated poverty has shifted: by

region, by type of metropolitan area

within regions, and for specific metropolitan

areas. Finally we look at

how various indicators of social problems

have changed for high-poverty

neighborhoods, again noting variations

by region and by type of metropolitan

area within regions.

The analysis uses census tracts

as its units of reference (we use the

terms tracts and neighborhoods interchangeably

throughout). Data came

from the Neighborhood Change

Database (NCDB), the only source of

tract-level census data in which tract

boundaries are defined consistently

over time. We also hold metropolitan

area and city boundaries constant;

data for all geographic units and

years are presented for boundaries as

defined in 2000. 2 Our analysis covers

330 U.S. metropolitan areas officially

defined at the time of the 2000 Census,

but we sometimes contrast conditions

in the 100 largest metropolitan areas

(listed in appendix table A1, available

at with those

in the other 230. 3

Poverty: Spreading into the

Middle Ranges

The data show that the 1990s brought

a sharp reversal in the poverty concentration

trend (figure 1). The most

pronounced change was at the high

end of the spectrum. The share of

metropolitan poor who live in

extreme poverty tracts, which had

jumped from 13 to 17 percent in the

1980s, dropped all the way back to

12 percent in 2000. The share in the

30–40 percent range stayed the same

over the decade, but putting these

two categories together, the share

in high-poverty neighborhoods

increased from 25 percent in 1980 to

31 percent in 1990 and then fell back

to 26 percent in 2000.

One-quarter of America’s metropolitan

poor lived in low-poverty

neighborhoods (rates in the 0–10 percent

range) in 2000, not much different

than the figure for 1990. The

compensating increases occurred in









the two intermediate categories.

The share of all poor people in tracts

with poverty rates in the 20–30 percent

range increased from 18 to

21 percent and that in the 10–20 percent

range from 27 to 29 percent.

The overall poverty rate in U.S.

metropolitan areas remained virtually

constant (11–12 percent range) from

1980 to 2000, but with increasing total

population, the absolute number of

poor people increased from 19.3 million

in 1980 to 23.1 million in 1990

and 25.8 million in 2000. The number

living in high-poverty neighborhoods

increased from 4.9 million in 1980 to

7.1 million in 1990, but then declined

to 6.7 million at century’s end (table

1). In contrast, the number of poor

people in tracts with poverty rates

ranging from 10 to 30 percent went

up from 10.4 million to 12.7 million

in the 1990s.

Shifting Patterns by Location

and Race

In 2000, America’s metropolitan areas

had a total of 50,502 census tracts and

a population of 223 million. The central

cities of the 100 largest metros

accounted for 28 percent of those

tracts (14,060) and 24 percent of that

FIGURE 1. Share of the Poor by Tract Poverty Rate, U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1980–2000

Percent of poor population

1980 1990 2000

< 10 10–20 20–30 30–40 40+

Tract poverty rate

Source: Neighborhood Change Database.


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

TABLE 1. Changes in Concentrated Poverty, U.S. Metropolitan Areas

population (54 million), and for 60

percent of the metropolitan poor people

who lived in high-poverty tracts

in 2000. The number of central city

high-poverty tracts increased from

2,595 in 1980 (poor population of

3.4 million) to 3,366 in 1990, and then

declined to 3,231 in 2000 (poor population

of 4.0 million). The central city

dominance in this regard has diminished,

however. Their share of the

high-poverty tracts in all metros

decreased from 67 percent in 1980 to

62 percent in 1990 and stayed at that

level in 2000 (figure 2).

In contrast, the suburbs of the

100 largest metros have experienced

the most rapid growth in concentrated

poverty. There are 23,974 tracts

in these suburbs, but only 408 of

them were in the high-poverty category

in 1980 (482,000 poor residents).

Over the next two decades, the

number of such tracts grew by

89 percent (to 772) and the number

of poor residents grew by 121 percent

(to 1.07 million). Their share of total

high-poverty area tracts in all metros

had increased from 11 to 13 percent

in the 1980s and to 15 percent in


1980 1990 2000

Poverty rate 30% or more

Number of tracts 3,856 5,433 5,224

Total population (thous.) 12,764 18,454 17,957

Poor population (thous.) 4,884 7,104 6,701

Percent of total population 7 9 8

Percent of poor population 25 31 26

Poverty rate 40% or more

Number of tracts 1,662 2,791 2,222

Total population (thous.) 5,312 9,093 7,033

Poor population (thous.) 2,439 3,968 3,088

Percent of total population 3 5 3

Percent of poor population 13 17 12

Source: Neighborhood Change Database, 1980, 1990, 2000.

In 1980, 853 of the 12,468 tracts in

the other 230 metropolitan areas were

in the high-poverty category (with 1.0

million poor residents). By 2000, the

number of such tracts had increased

by 43 percent (to 1,221) and the number

of poor residents by 58 percent (to

1.6 million). However, their share of

all metropolitan high-poverty tracts

remained relatively flat over this

period, increasing from 22 to 25 percent

in the 1980s and then dropping

back to 23 percent in 2000.

Even though the absolute numbers

in the suburbs and other metros

FIGURE 2. High-Poverty Tracts by Location, 1980 and 2000


Central cities,

100 largest metros

Source: Neighborhood Change Database.

All other

metros (230)


went up over the two decades, all saw

declines in concentrated poverty rates

(share of the poor in high-poverty

areas) in the 1990s. From 1990 to

2000, those rates dropped from 48 to

41 percent in the central cities of the

100 largest metros, from 12 to 11 percent

in their suburbs, and from 29 to

25 percent in the other metros.

Changes in the composition of

concentrated poverty by race were

more dramatic (figure 3). 4 In 1980,

African Americans were the predominant

race (more than 60 percent of

total population) in almost half

(48 percent) of all high-poverty tracts,

and those tracts accounted for more

than half (54 percent) of the poor

population in high-poverty neighborhoods.

By 2000, the predominantly

black share of tracts had dropped to

39 percent of the poor population in

such tracts and to only one-third of

the total.

The share of all high-poverty

tracts that were predominantly white

also decreased (from 18 percent in

1980 to 14 percent in 2000). Compensating

increases occurred in the

shares that were predominantly Hispanic

(up from 13 to 20 percent) and

the share that had no predominant

race (growing from 21 to 26 percent).

Components of Change

The way concentrated poverty

changes is generally not well under-



100 largest


Central cities,

100 largest metros


1980 2000

All other

metros (230)




100 largest



The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

FIGURE 3. High-Poverty Tracts by Predominant Race/Ethnicity, 1980 and 2000





Source: Neighborhood Change Database.



stood. Contrary to what the name

might imply, levels of concentrated

poverty are not much influenced by

population growth or decline in tracts

that were in the high- or extremepoverty

categories at the beginning of

a decade. Rather, the outcome is

determined more by the number of

tracts moving in and out of those categories.

And it is important to know

that when tracts reach high-poverty

status, further deterioration is not at

all inevitable. In fact, even when concentrated

poverty was increasing

overall, many tracts experienced

reductions in poverty rates and

moved out of the category. The overall

increase occurred only because,

on balance, more moved in.

Table 2 accounts for these interactions

since 1980, looking at changes

in the total poor population in highpoverty

tracts. In all metropolitan

areas, there were 4.9 million poor

people living in these high-poverty

tracts in 1980. Over the decade, the

population of the tracts that stayed in

the category (the constant tracts)

experienced a net growth of only

151,000. In contrast, the gain from

tracts that moved into the category

(poverty rates having moved above

30 percent over the decade) was 2.7







1980 2000





million. These gains were partially

offset by the loss of 608,000 poor people

in tracts who moved out (poverty

rates declined to below 30 percent).

The addition of new tracts to the

high-poverty category clearly had the

most important impact in increasing

the total to 7.1 million in 1990.

The pattern was quite different in

the 1990s. The poor populations of

the tracts that stayed in the category

experienced a net decline (378,000),

and the gain from new tracts entering

the category (1.5 million) was more

than offset by the loss of tracts whose

poverty rates had dropped (1.6 million).

The net effect was to reduce the

total to 6.7 million by 2000. The gain

from tracts entering the high-poverty

category in the 1990s (22 percent of

the 1990 total) was much smaller proportionally

than the comparable gain

in the 1980s (55 percent of the 1980


Table 2 also shows these components

of change for the high-poverty

areas in the central cities of the

largest 100 metros. The basic patterns

were similar, but losses were larger

in comparison to gains in each

decade. On net, the poor population

in high-poverty tracts there rose by

31 percent in the 1980s (compared

with 45 percent for all metros) and

declined by 9 percent in the 1990s

(compared with a drop of 6 percent

for all metros).

Variations by Region and

Type of Metropolitan Area

The general patterns we have

described—increases in concentrated

TABLE 2. Components of Change: High-Poverty Tracts in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Total all

metropolitan areas

Central cities,

largest 100 metros

Poor Pct. of Poor Pct. of

population start of population start of

(thous). decade (thous). decade

Total 1980 4,884 100 3,399 100

Change population, constant tracts 151 3 (23) (1)

Plus tracts entering high-poverty 2,677 55 1,464 43

Minus tracts leaving high-poverty (608) (12) (404) (12)

Total 1990 7,104 145 4,436 131

Total 1990 7,104 100 4,436 100

Change population, constant tracts (378) (5) (358) (8)

Plus tracts entering high-poverty 1,528 22 832 19

Minus tracts leaving high-poverty (1,553) (22) (862) (19)

Total 2000 6,701 94 4,048 91

Source: Neighborhood Change Database, 1980, 1990, 2000.


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

poverty in the 1980s and declines in

the 1990s—applied to most metropolitan

areas in the country, but not to all

of them. To examine differences, we

begin by separating metros by region

and size (largest 100 vs. others). We

then further sort the 100 largest metros

according to categories developed

by demographer William Frey (2001):

Melting Pot metros are those where

whites account for no more than

69 percent of the 2000 population

and minorities other than blacks

account for more than 18 percent.

Largely White-Black metros are metropolitan

areas where blacks account

for at least 16 percent of the population.

All other metropolitan areas

are classified as Largely White (see

table 3). 5

Levels of Concentrated Poverty

in 1990

Before talking about patterns of

change in the 1990s, it is worth

reviewing the coming-in position:

variation among the levels of concentrated

poverty in different locations at

the start of that decade. We continue

to refer to the share of the poor living

in high-poverty neighborhoods

TABLE 3. Changes in Concentrated Poverty by Region and Type of Metro

Percent Poor population in high-poverty Percent of poor population in

Number Population population tracts (thousands) high-poverty tracts

of (millions) growth

metros 2000 1990-00 1980 1990 2000 1980 1990 2000


Melting Pot 4 13.3 8 876 785 878 47 44 41

Largely White 15 15.9 2 233 329 358 17 23 23

Largely Wh.-Bl. 1 5.1 4 199 182 214 36 36 39

Total top 100 20 34.3 5 1,308 1,296 1,450 35 35 34

Other Metros 39 13.3 7 69 123 155 8 14 15

Total Metro. 59 47.6 6 1,377 1,419 1,605 29 31 30


Melting Pot 2 11.1 13 346 381 279 37 38 27

Largely White 13 12.4 9 222 416 267 21 33 23

Largely Wh.-Bl. 5 11.4 4 318 599 393 30 46 33

Total top 100 20 35.0 9 886 1,396 938 29 39 28

Other Metros 58 12.0 9 143 314 226 15 26 20

Total Metro. 78 47.0 9 1,029 1,710 1,165 26 36 26


Melting Pot 10 23.0 24 406 756 602 25 33 22

Largely White 8 7.8 15 131 187 156 19 23 18

Largely Wh.-Bl. 19 23.0 19 704 758 625 32 32 25

Total top 100 37 53.8 21 1,241 1,701 1,383 28 31 22

Other Metros 91 20.1 15 702 1,091 936 31 38 31

Total Metro. 128 73.9 19 1,943 2,792 2,319 29 34 25


Melting Pot 18 36.3 18 402 869 1,295 15 24 27

Largely White 5 8.4 24 45 88 48 10 14 7

Total top 100 23 44.8 19 447 958 1,343 14 22 24

Other Metros 42 9.8 22 86 224 269 11 21 21

Total Metro. 65 54.6 19 533 1,182 1,613 14 22 24

Total U.S.

Melting Pot 34 83.8 17 2,030 2,791 3,054 29 32 28

Largely White 41 44.6 10 631 1,020 829 18 25 19

Largely Wh.-Bl. 25 39.5 12 1,222 1,538 1,232 32 37 29

Total top 100 100 167.9 14 3,882 5,350 5,115 27 31 26

Other Metros 230 55.2 13 1,000 1,753 1,586 20 29 25

Total Metro. 330 223.1 14 4,883 7,103 6,701 25 31 26

Source: Neighborhood Change Database, 1980, 1990, 2000.


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

(tracts with poverty rates of 30 percent

or more) as the “concentrated

poverty rate.” While the numbers

would be different, the general pattern

(which areas rank comparatively

high or low) would be very similar if

we used the share living in extremepoverty

neighborhoods instead.

Important differences are shown

on table 3. The highest level of concentration

in 1990 was for Largely

White-Black metros in the Midwest

(rate of 46 percent) followed closely

by Melting Pot metros in the Northeast

(44 percent), both well above the

31 percent national average. The lowest

rate was for the Largely White

metros in the West at 14 percent.

Averages for three of the regions as a

whole (Northeast, Midwest, and

South) were reasonably close to each

other (31–36 percent). The West, at

22 percent overall, was the outlier.

Ranges are even greater when we

look at individual metropolitan areas.

El Paso had the highest rate in 1990

(65 percent), followed by four others

in the 50–53 percent range (New

Orleans, Milwaukee, Detroit, and

Memphis). The five lowest (all in the

range of 0–6 percent) were Honolulu

and four coastal metros in California

(Vallejo, Orange, Ventura, and San


It is also worth noting that

regional differences in the concentration

of poverty are considerably

wider than differences in the poverty

rate itself, and, as noted earlier, those

rates did not change much over the

1990s. The 1990 poverty rates for top

100 metros fell in the 11–14 percent

range in all four regions; the rates for

all metros ranged from 10 percent

(Northeast) to 14 percent (South).

Trends in the Northeast

The concentrated poverty rate for this

region dropped only slightly in the

1990s: from 31 to 30 percent (the highest

average among the four regions in

2000). Actually, the region is a composite

of quite different stories. Its

Melting Pot metros include New York

and four others in northern New Jersey.

This group experienced considerable

population growth in the 1990s

(unlike the other groups in this

region). Its average concentrated

poverty rate had been highest of all

categories in 1980 (47 percent) before

declining to 44 percent in 1990 and

then 41 percent in 2000. One in this

group, Bergen, did experience an

increase in rate in the 1990s, but the

others saw sufficient decreases in

concentrated poverty to more than

make up for it.

The other areas in this region had

lower concentrated poverty rates to

begin with, but many of them moved

in the wrong direction. Population

growth typically has been sluggish at

best. The Largely White metros are

the only group for which central city

populations grew less or declined

more in the 1990s than they had in

the 1980s (Kingsley and Pettit 2002).

And this is one of two categories on

table 3 with a sizeable number of

metros (6 of 15) that experienced

increases in concentrated poverty

(by more than 1 percent) in the 1990s.

These were Albany, Allentown,

Hartford, Providence, Syracuse, and

Worcester. Philadelphia (the only

Largely White-Black metro in this

region) also saw an increase in its

concentrated poverty rate in the

1990s (from 36 to 39 percent).

Trends in the Midwest

These trends were much more positive

in this regard over the past

decade. The region’s overall concentrated

poverty rate dropped

markedly, from 36 percent—the

highest regional average in 1990—to

26 percent in 2000, and declines were

significant for all types of metros in

the region. Probably most impressive

was the change in the Largely White-

Black group in this region—Cleveland,

Detroit, Gary, Milwaukee, and

St. Louis. The rate for this group went

up from 30 percent in 1980 to 46 percent

in 1990 and then dropped all the

way back to 33 percent in 2000. The

average for the two Melting Pot metros

in this region (Chicago and Minneapolis-St.

Paul) also dropped

significantly in the 1990s, from 38 to

27 percent.

Trends in the South

These trends were similar to those in

the Midwest. The overall regional

concentrated poverty rate dropped

markedly in the 1990s from 34 to

25 percent. Only one of the 37 metros

from the 100-largest group located in

this region (Wilmington) saw an

increase in concentrated poverty in

the 1990s, and 27 of them saw

declines that brought their 2000 concentrated

poverty rates below those

of 1980. The biggest drop in concentrated

poverty occurred for the

10 Melting Pot metros in this region:

from 33 percent to 22 percent on average.

All of these are either in Texas or

Florida except for one, metropolitan

Washington, D.C., which had a different

experience in the 1990s. Its rate of

concentrated poverty as defined here

remained quite low and constant (at

14 percent), but it is one of a small

number nationally in which the

share of the poor in extreme-poverty

neighborhoods went up: from 3 to

8 percent. 6

Trends in the West

The West is the only region with an

overall increase in its concentrated

poverty rate in the 1990s (from 22

to 24 percent), albeit remaining at a

fairly low level overall. This region

is composed of three distinctly different

groups in the largest-100 category,

and trends for them diverge.

For the five Largely White metros

(Denver, Portland, Salt Lake City,

Seattle, and Tacoma), concentrated

poverty started comparatively low

and then dropped significantly in

the 1990s (from 14 to 7 percent on



The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

The other two groups are in the

West’s Melting Pot category; 7 of the

18 in this category experienced increases

in concentrated poverty of

1 percentage point or more. The most

important news probably is that concentrated

poverty in metropolitan

Los Angeles increased to a level

comparable to some of the older

urban areas in the East (from 29 to

36 percent). 7 A second group of interest

in this category is the set of troubled,

rapidly growing metropolises in

California’s Central Valley. Bakersfield,

Stockton, and Sacramento all

saw large increases in concentrated

poverty in the 1990s (rates ranging

from 23 to 48 percent), and Fresno’s

rate, while not increasing, held constant

at one of the highest levels in

the nation: 50 percent. It is ironic that

while California’s Central Valley is

home to several of America’s most

severe concentrations of urban

poverty, the same state dominates

the list of metropolitan areas that

have the lowest concentration rates

nationally, with San Francisco, San

Jose, Ventura, and Vallejo registering

less than 5 percent in 2000 (others

with 2000 rates below that level are

Portland and Jersey City).

All in all, the 1990s witnessed

important changes in the pattern of

concentrated poverty. In 1990, six

metros had concentrated poverty

rates of 50 percent or more (the highest

being El Paso at 65 percent); in

2000, there were only two (again El

Paso was highest, but at only 55 percent).

In 1990, only one metro had a

rate of 5 percent or less; in 2000, as

noted above, there were six. In the

1980s, concentrated poverty rates for

eight metros increased by 20 percentage

points or more (the highest being

Fresno at +38 percent), while in the

1990s there were no increases that

large (the highest was Bakersfield at

+18 percent). In the 1980s, there was

only one metro whose rate declined

by 15 percent or more (Bridgeport),

while in the 1990s there were seven in

that category. These started with

Grand Rapids (-15 percent), included

Dallas, Austin, Denver, Columbus,

and Detroit, and were topped by San

Antonio (-24 percent).



Reduction in Distress

Whether the concentration of poverty

increased or decreased would not

make much difference if there were

no corresponding change in indicators

of the well-being of the residents

of the neighborhoods in question.

Census data show, however, that as

poverty became less concentrated in

the 1990s, there was a change. Conditions

did improve in the tracts that

were in the high-poverty category at

the start of the decade.

Between 1990 and 2000, on

average for these high-poverty neighborhoods

in all U.S. metropolitan


the share of people age 25 and over

without a high school degree

dropped from 48 to 43 percent,

the share of people age 25 and over

who had graduated from college

went up from 9 to 11 percent,

the share of families with children

headed by women dropped from

53 to 49 percent,

the share of women age 16 and

over who were employed went up

from 40 to 42 percent, and

the share of households receiving

public assistance was cut in half

from 24 to 12 percent.

There were some important variations

across the country in these conditions

and how they changed. Data

for three of these indicators are presented

by region and type of metropolis

in table 4. The share of adults in

high-poverty tracts without a high

school degree, for example, ranged

from 33 percent (Largely White metros

in the Midwest and West) to

54 percent (Melting Pot metros in the

West). Improvements occurred in the

1990s in every category on the table,

but they were not uniform. The

smallest declines occurred in the West

(-0.7 percent overall) and then in

Melting Pot metros to the Northeast

and South (all areas with large and

rapidly growing immigrant populations).

The largest declines (-9.0 to

-9.3 percent) were in the Melting Pot

metros of the Midwest and all categories

except the Melting Pot metros

in the South.

The pattern for the high-poverty

area share of families with children

headed by women was almost the

reverse. All parts of the West come in

low by this measure (regional average

of 33 percent). Four other categories

had rates in the 61–64 percent

range (almost twice as high): the

Largely White-Black metros of the

Northeast, Midwest, and South, and

the Largely White metros of the

Northeast. Again, the 1990s saw

improvements in all categories, but

the biggest declines were in the

Largely White metros of the West

(-10 percent) and the Melting Pot

metros of the Northeast and Midwest

(-5 to -6 percent).

The third measure is the share of

women age 16 and over in highpoverty

neighborhoods who are

employed. Here, the highest rates

(48–50 percent) are in the Largely

White metros of the Midwest and

West, and the lowest is in the Melting

Pot metros of the Northeast (35 percent).

In terms of improvement in this

rate in the 1990s, all parts of the Midwest

stand out (regional average of

+6 percent, in contrast to averages of

less than +1 percent for the other

three regions).

While these improvements in

high-poverty tracts are noteworthy,

conditions in other parts of most metropolitan

areas also improved, so


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

TABLE 4. Selected Indicators, High-Poverty Areas versus Metro Averages

Population 25 and over Female-headed families Women 16 and over

without HS degree (%) as % of families with children employed (%)

High-poverty tracts

High-poverty tracts

High-poverty tracts




Change metro. Change metro. Change metro.

2000 1990-00 2000 2000 1990-00 2000 2000 1990-00 2000


Melting Pot 47 (5.9) 2.0 57 (4.5) 1.9 35 (0.5) 0.72

Largely White 37 (6.1) 2.3 62 (0.3) 2.6 43 2.5 0.77

Largely Wh.-Bl. 43 (7.9) 2.4 63 (1.1) 2.4 38 1.5 0.70

Total top 100 44 (5.8) 2.3 59 (3.2) 2.2 38 0.4 0.71

Other Metros 38 (6.5) 2.4 49 (2.4) 2.6 42 3.2 0.76

Total Metro. 44 (5.9) 2.4 58 (3.1) 2.4 38 0.6 0.71


Melting Pot 38 (9.0) 2.3 56 (5.8) 2.5 43 5.6 0.73

Largely White 33 (7.0) 2.2 58 (0.6) 2.4 48 6.3 0.81

Largely Wh.-Bl. 38 (8.3) 2.2 61 (4.3) 2.3 43 7.5 0.77

Total top 100 37 (8.1) 2.3 59 (3.7) 2.4 44 6.6 0.77

Other Metros 28 (6.0) 1.9 49 (0.6) 2.3 51 5.0 0.85

Total Metro. 35 (7.7) 2.2 57 (3.3) 2.4 46 6.3 0.79


Melting Pot 49 (5.0) 2.4 40 (3.8) 1.7 40 (1.6) 0.72

Largely White 38 (9.0) 2.0 55 0.8 2.2 43 0.9 0.82

Largely Wh.-Bl. 39 (9.3) 2.1 64 (0.7) 2.4 42 1.4 0.74

Total top 100 43 (7.0) 2.3 51 (3.1) 2.0 42 (0.1) 0.74

Other Metros 43 (6.3) 2.0 41 (1.9) 1.6 41 0.8 0.81

Total Metro. 43 (6.7) 2.2 47 (2.8) 1.8 41 0.3 0.76


Melting Pot 54 (0.5) 2.4 34 (3.8) 1.5 38 (2.0) 0.73

Largely White 33 (1.3) 2.7 38 (10.4) 1.9 50 5.7 0.83

Total top 100 52 (0.7) 2.5 34 (4.3) 1.6 39 (1.2) 0.73

Other Metros 37 (0.3) 2.1 29 (1.0) 1.4 46 2.9 0.84

Total Metro. 49 (0.7) 2.5 33 (3.8) 1.5 41 (0.3) 0.76

Total U.S.

Melting Pot 49 (4.1) 2.3 45 (4.8) 1.8 39 (0.6) 0.72

Largely White 35 (6.6) 2.3 57 (1.5) 2.4 45 4.0 0.80

Largely Wh.-Bl. 39 (8.8) 2.2 63 (2.2) 2.3 42 3.7 0.75

Total top 100 44 (5.5) 2.3 51 (4.2) 2.1 41 1.4 0.74

Other Metros 40 (5.3) 2.2 41 (2.0) 1.8 44 2.0 0.80

Total Metro. 43 (5.5) 2.3 49 (3.8) 2.0 42 1.6 0.76

Source: Neighborhood Change Database, 1980, 1990, 2000.

gaps in conditions did not shrink

much, if at all. For example, the share

of adults without a high school degree

in high-poverty neighborhoods was

2.1 times the all-metropolitan average

in 1990 but went up to 2.3 times in

2000. On the other hand, the comparable

ratio for the share of families with

children headed by women improved

from 2.3 to 2.0, and for the share of

women age 16 and over who were

working, it improved from 0.7 to 0.8.

These ratios also vary by region

and type of metropolis. For example,

the ratio of the share of adults without

a high school degree in highpoverty

neighborhoods to the

metropolitan average was lowest in

the “other” (not in the top 100) metros

of the Midwest (1.9), while the

level of disparity by this measure was


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

highest in the Largely White metros

of the West (2.7). The ratio for the

share of families with children

headed by women ranged from 1.4

(“other” metros of the West) to 2.6

(Largely White metros of the Northeast).

The ratio for the share of

women age 16 and over who were

working was quite small (0.70 to



Against the overwhelmingly negative

mindset that long dominated America’s

thinking about cities, our story is

astonishing. No writer of a decade

ago even hinted at so dramatic a

reversal in the concentration of

poverty by the end of the century.

And it is not just the spatial pattern

that changed. By a sizeable number of

indicators, there have been measurable

improvements in conditions in

high-poverty neighborhoods since


Why did it happen? More

research will be needed to answer

that in a fully satisfying way. However,

it is hard to believe that the

booming economy of the late 1990s

did not have a great deal to do with

it. Jargowsky’s 1997 analysis showed

the strength of the local economy as

the most important factor in explaining

the variation in concentrated

poverty across regions in 1990. Contrary

to the view that a “culture of

poverty” would prevent the residents

of the ghettos from ever moving up

the economic ladder, his models suggested

that if the economy improved,

they would benefit. It looks like he

was right. Appropriately enough,

researchers have been stressing other

supports (e.g., the Earned Income Tax

Credit, more funding for child care)

important to improving outcomes in

the late 1990s as well, but a sound

economy was fundamental.

While this news is good, two

other points should be kept in mind.

First, while things got better in highpoverty

neighborhoods in the 1990s,

in most places they got only a little

better. In 2000, conditions remained

significantly more problematic in

high-poverty areas than other neighborhoods

with respect to every indicator.

For example, those living in

high-poverty areas at the end of the

decade were still 3.4 times more

likely to be receiving public assistance,

2.3 times more likely to lack a

high school degree, and 2.6 times

more likely to be unemployed than

metropolitan residents on average.

There is still a long way to go.

Second, there is nothing to suggest

that this shift in trends is at all

permanent. It is important to remember

that the reference date of the

recent decennial census (April 2000)

was near the peak of the economic

boom of the late 1990s. Circumstances

most probably have deteriorated

again since then, although no one

knows reliably by how much.

Nonetheless, the fact that the

improvements of the 1990s could

occur is important in itself. There are

good reasons to suspect that one of

the reasons the drive to revitalize

America’s cities had foundered was

that too many people came to believe

it was all hopeless, that nothing one

could do would make a difference.

The 1990s proved that supposition

wrong. The story told most often in

the past (that things keep getting

worse and worse) motivated sympathy,

but not action. The story of the

1990s suggests that renewed investment

in urban America can pay off.

The data presented here also hint

at avenues for further research that

might tell us more about how to make

renewed investment pay off. One of

them is to find out more about the

neighborhoods that did experience

significant reductions in poverty over

the past 20 years and how those

changes took place. To be sure, gentrification

probably played an important

role in some cases, but given the

scale and locational spread of such

changes, it is clearly not the only

force at work. Researchers and policymakers

generally have underestimated

the number of tracts where

poverty has declined and have

missed opportunities to learn from



1. Some evidence suggests that the critical

threshold in the relationship between

poverty rates and social problem conditions

may be closer to 30 percent than 40 percent

(Galster 2002) (i.e., a threshold above which

further increases in the poverty rate are not

associated with substantial further worsening

of problem conditions).

2. The NCDB was developed by the Urban

Institute and GeoLytics, Inc. Documentation

can be found at

To avoid outliers, the database for this

analysis excludes 286 tracts with population

less than 200 in 1980, 1990, and 2000. It also

excludes 679 metropolitan tracts as defined

in 2000 that were in areas that were not

tracted in 1980 (i.e., for which no 1980 tractlevel

data exist). Since census tract boundaries

do not always conform to municipal

boundaries, we define each city as the

aggregation of 2000 Census tracts that most

closely approximates the official place

boundary, and use those same boundaries

for 1980 and 1990. Thus our city population

totals may differ from the Place totals published

by the Bureau of the Census.

3. Actually, there were 331 metropolitan areas

in 2000, but we exclude Barnstable-

Yarmouth because census tracts were not

defined within it in 1980. We selected the

largest 100 Primary Metropolitan Statistical

Areas (PMSAs) and Metropolitan Statistical

Areas (MSAs) based on their 1990 populations.

We exclude suburban PMSAs that did

not have large central cities within their own

boundaries. The Bureau of the Census recognizes

several individual municipalities as

“Central Cities” in many metropolitan areas.

For this analysis, we generally accept only

the predominant city as the Central City

(e.g., Chicago in the Chicago PMSA). In

seven cases, however, we classified two

municipalities as together making up the

Central City: Anaheim/Santa Ana, CA; Fort

Lauderdale/Hollywood, FL;

Greensboro/Winston-Salem, NC;

Greenville/Spartanburg, SC;

Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Tampa/St.

Petersburg, FL; and West Palm Beach/Boca

Raton, FL.

4. For simplicity, we consistently divide the

population for all years into four groups by


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

ethnicity and race: “Hispanic” and three

racial groups (white, black, and other),

always defined to exclude Hispanics of

those races. To allocate non-Hispanics who

identified more than one race in the 2000

Census into the three racial categories, we

applied an algorithm developed by demographer

Jeffrey Passel that we believe does a

reasonably good job of achieving comparability

over time (see explanation in Tatian


5. Note that we applied Frey’s (2001) framework

to our selected metros using 2000 data

as he did in his paper.

6. For an extensive analysis of the changing

concentration of poverty in metropolitan

Washington and its implications, see Turner

et al. (forthcoming).

7. Changing spatial patterns of concentrated

poverty and their determinants in the Los

Angeles region are analyzed by McConville

and Ong (forthcoming).


Burgess, E. 1925. “The Growth of a City.” In

The City, edited by R. Park, E. Burgess, and

R. Mckenzie. Chicago: University of

Chicago Press.

Ellen, Ingrid Gould, and Margery Austin

Turner. 1997. “Does Neighborhood Matter?

Assessing Recent Evidence.” Housing Policy

Debate 8: 833–866.

Frey, William H. 2001. Melting Pot Suburbs: A

Census 2000 Study of Suburban Diversity.

Washington, D.C.: Center on Urban and

Metropolitan Policy, The Brookings Institution.

Galster, George. 2002. “An Economic Efficiency

Analysis of Deconcentrating Poverty Populations”

Journal of Housing Economics 11:


Jargowsky, Paul A. 1997. Poverty and Place;

Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City. New

York: Russell Sage Foundation.

———. 2003. Stunning Progress, Hidden Problems:

The Dramatic Decline of Concentrated

Poverty in the 1990s. Washington, D.C.: Center

on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, The

Brookings Institution.

Katz, Bruce, and Alan Berube. 2002. “Cities

Rebound—Somewhat.” The American Enterprise

13(4): 47.

Kingsley, G. Thomas, and Kathryn L. S. Pettit.

2002. Population Growth and Decline in City

Neighborhoods. Washington, D.C.: The

Urban Institute. Neighborhood Change in

Urban America Brief 1.

McConville, Sharon, and Paul Ong. Forthcoming.

The Trajectory of Poor Neighborhoods in

Southern California, 1970–2000. Washington,

D.C.: Center on Urban and Metropolitan

Policy, The Brookings Institution.

Tatian, Peter A. 2002. CensusCD Neighborhood

Change Database (NCDB) Data Users’ Guide:

Short Form Release. Washington, D.C.: The

Urban Institute.

Turner, Margery Austin, Kathryn L. S. Pettit, G.

Thomas Kingsley, Christopher Snow, Peter

Tatian, and Alisa Wilson. Forthcoming.

Housing in the Nation’s Capital: 2003. Washington,

D.C.: The Fannie Mae Foundation.

Wilson, William Julius. 1987. The Truly Disadvantaged:

The Inner City, the Underclass, and

Public Policy. Chicago: University of

Chicago Press.

About the Authors


G. Thomas Kingsley

coordinates the Neighborhood

Change in

Urban America series

and is director of the

National Neighborhood


Kathryn L. S. Pettit is

deputy director of the

National Neighborhood

Indicators Partnership

and codirector

of a project examining

the relationships

between neighborhood conditions

and health outcomes.



2100 M Street, NW

Washington, DC 20037

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or visit our web site,

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or visit our online bookstore,

The Rockefeller Foundation has funded the Urban Institute to conduct a

project that will advance knowledge about neighborhood change in America’s

urban areas, particularly as it occurred over the 1990s. The project has had

two purposes. The first was to develop the Neighborhood Change Database

(NCDB)—the only database that contains nationwide census data at the tract

level with tract boundaries and variables consistently defined across the four

U.S. censuses from 1970 through 2000 (for more information about the

NCDB, visit The second was to conduct research

on neighborhood change using the NCDB, focusing particularly on changes in

the concentration of poverty, conditions in distressed neighborhoods, and

racial patterns. This paper is one product of that research.


2100 M Street, NW

Washington, DC 20037

Copyright © 2003

Phone: 202-833-7200

Fax: 202-293-1918


The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of

the Urban Institute, its board, its sponsors, or other authors in the series.

Permission is granted for reproduction of this document, with attribution to the Urban


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

TABLE A-1. Change in Concentrated Poverty (100 Largest Metropolitan Areas)

High-poverty tracts (30% or more)

Extreme-poverty tracts

(40% or more)

No. of Poor pop. Percent of Percent of

tracts. (thous.) poor population poor population

1990 2000 1990 2000 1980 1990 2000 1980 1990 2000

Northeast, Melting Pot 510 558 785 878 47 44 41 29 27 22

Bergen, NJ 8 12 9 15 26 11 15 13 2 5

Jersey City, NJ 9 3 12 4 15 15 4 4 5 3

New York, NY 448 493 714 811 51 49 46 32 31 25

Newark, NJ 45 50 51 47 41 31 25 26 14 12

Northeast, Largely White 280 344 329 358 17 23 23 7 12 10

Albany, NY 8 19 11 16 15 16 20 1 5 7

Allentown, PA–NJ 6 10 6 11 10 15 20 0 8 10

Boston, MA 36 37 39 43 16 15 15 3 5 4

Bridgeport, CT 7 9 8 7 38 23 19 25 8 8

Buffalo, NY 39 39 56 45 25 40 33 12 23 17

Harrisburg, PA 7 8 10 10 12 23 20 7 6 6

Hartford, CT 18 32 23 29 25 28 30 16 17 10

New Haven, CT 8 10 10 13 21 25 26 7 5 9

Pittsburgh, PA 54 49 57 40 14 21 17 7 12 9

Providence, RI 16 28 19 40 6 18 29 3 3 10

Rochester, NY 35 42 30 35 19 31 32 6 16 17

Scranton, PA 6 4 6 4 1 9 7 0 3 4

Springfield, MA 15 18 26 26 34 37 33 16 29 22

Syracuse, NY 17 26 20 25 24 27 29 12 20 17

Worcester, MA 8 13 8 15 9 20 32 6 10 8

Northeast, Largely White-Black 109 140 182 214 36 36 39 23 23 20

Philadelphia, PA–NJ 109 140 182 214 36 36 39 23 23 20

Midwest, Melting Pot 345 277 381 279 37 38 27 21 25 13

Chicago, IL 294 246 331 246 41 40 29 25 27 14

Minneapolis, MN–WI 51 31 50 33 14 25 17 5 18 9

Midwest, Largely White 370 291 416 267 21 33 23 10 19 9

Akron, OH 29 18 29 15 19 37 23 4 23 10

Cincinnati, OH–KY–IN 45 46 56 42 28 34 29 20 25 17

Columbus, OH 42 29 64 37 35 41 25 16 25 13

Dayton, OH 28 24 38 23 21 35 24 11 22 7

Flint, MI 24 22 35 24 13 50 42 0 34 16

Grand Rapids, MI 21 11 23 10 14 26 12 3 10 3

Indianapolis, IN 27 21 26 18 16 19 13 5 7 2

Kansas City, MO–KS 49 36 35 27 17 23 18 7 10 5

Lansing, MI 15 13 18 12 17 34 25 10 22 13

Omaha, NE–IA 18 12 16 11 14 28 18 11 13 4

Toledo, OH 35 29 38 26 24 45 34 11 25 11

Wichita, KS 10 6 12 6 14 23 11 0 11 5

Youngstown, OH 27 24 26 17 22 34 29 6 23 5

Midwest, Largely White-Black 506 440 599 393 30 46 33 14 30 14

Cleveland, OH 132 120 112 87 28 43 36 17 22 15

Detroit, MI 211 164 285 161 30 52 34 12 36 10

Gary, IN 23 18 24 17 19 34 25 6 17 12

Milwaukee, WI 73 78 84 68 30 52 44 12 43 22

St. Louis, MO–IL 67 60 92 60 33 35 24 17 20 13

South, Melting Pot 492 389 756 602 25 33 22 11 16 8

Austin, TX 36 17 46 29 33 40 23 15 15 13

Dallas, TX 72 44 97 58 23 31 16 11 15 6

El Paso, TX 55 45 102 88 42 65 55 15 35 20

Fort Lauderdale, FL 14 18 22 29 17 17 15 11 5 4

Fort Worth, TX 31 23 32 23 17 22 13 5 10 4

Houston, TX 108 85 160 131 17 32 23 8 15 6

Miami, FL 61 63 122 121 32 36 31 12 21 14

Orlando, FL 13 11 18 18 18 15 10 8 7 5

San Antonio, TX 66 39 121 58 43 49 25 20 29 8

Washington, DC–MD–VA 36 44 37 47 15 14 14 5 3 8


The Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series

TABLE A-1. Change in Concentrated Poverty (100 Largest Metropolitan Areas)(Continued)

High-poverty tracts (30% or more)

Extreme-poverty tracts

(40% or more)

South, Largely White 173 155 187 156 19 23 18 11 11 9

Chattanooga, TN–GA 14 10 14 10 25 25 18 18 14 12

Johnson City, TN–VA 6 6 8 6 1 12 10 0 0 0

Knoxville, TN 18 20 17 18 28 23 24 16 12 13

Louisville, KY–IN 28 21 41 28 30 35 27 18 18 19

Oklahoma City, OK 40 40 28 28 20 22 20 6 13 10

Tampa, FL 35 28 44 34 19 20 13 12 10 6

Tulsa, OK 19 14 20 13 7 22 14 2 13 7

West Palm Beach, FL 13 16 16 19 20 20 17 11 9 8

South, Largely White-Black 607 583 758 625 32 32 25 18 21 12

Atlanta, GA 65 53 79 65 32 27 17 20 15 11

Baltimore, MD 63 70 87 71 38 38 29 23 23 14

Baton Rouge, LA 31 27 48 39 30 50 41 12 29 18

Birmingham, AL 24 26 45 36 32 36 31 18 22 13

Charleston, SC 16 18 19 17 33 25 23 19 18 15

Charlotte, NC–SC 18 13 16 11 14 15 8 9 11 2

Columbia, SC 12 14 9 11 18 19 19 9 18 10

Greensboro, NC 16 17 14 17 17 14 14 4 8 6

Greenville, SC 14 16 13 15 13 15 14 5 9 8

Jacksonville, FL 20 16 28 18 35 27 16 17 10 7

Little Rock, AR 17 14 17 14 22 27 21 4 9 4

Memphis, TN–AR–MS 65 66 91 72 56 50 42 32 40 21

Mobile, AL 34 27 42 28 44 45 32 27 34 21

Nashville, TN 21 19 26 20 21 24 16 16 15 8

New Orleans, LA 116 105 136 106 44 53 46 26 35 23

Norfolk, VA 34 30 46 32 31 29 20 14 20 14

Raleigh, NC 16 19 15 21 13 18 19 2 8 6

Richmond, VA 18 22 22 22 26 27 24 11 15 10

Wilmington, DE–NJ–MD 7 11 4 10 23 11 21 13 5 13

West, Melting Pot 591 775 869 1,295 15 24 27 4 8 11

Albuquerque, NM 19 14 24 18 20 29 20 4 7 6

Bakersfield, CA 17 31 27 63 7 30 48 4 12 22

Fresno, CA 41 45 78 102 12 50 50 5 25 34

Honolulu, HI 5 7 3 8 7 6 10 4 5 5

Las Vegas, NV 8 13 12 23 8 15 16 0 5 1

Los Angeles, CA 252 369 383 611 22 29 36 5 9 15

Oakland, CA 26 26 31 34 18 16 15 4 6 6

Orange County, CA 7 13 13 25 2 6 9 0 0 1

Phoenix, AZ 64 63 82 93 25 29 24 14 15 10

Riverside, CA 27 60 38 104 4 12 22 0 3 8

Sacramento, CA 17 26 29 44 7 20 23 1 5 5

San Diego, CA 42 47 60 76 10 22 22 1 6 9

San Francisco, CA 10 5 11 7 11 8 5 3 4 2

San Jose, CA 7 2 8 2 3 7 2 0 0 0

Stockton, CA 16 23 24 40 18 33 41 5 15 16

Tucson, AZ 29 26 43 41 21 39 34 9 21 9

Vallejo, CA 0 2 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0

Ventura, CA 4 3 3 3 0 6 4 0 0 0

West, Largely White 80 50 88 48 10 14 7 4 6 2

Denver, CO 30 10 38 13 14 25 8 7 8 2

Portland, OR 15 12 13 8 7 9 5 2 4 2

Salt Lake City, UT 16 11 13 6 7 13 6 3 4 3

Seattle, WA 12 11 14 13 9 9 7 2 5 2

Tacoma, WA 7 6 10 7 10 16 9 7 10 5

Source: Neighborhood Change Database, 1980, 1990, 2000.

No. of Poor pop. Percent of Percent of

tracts. (thous.) poor population poor population

1990 2000 1990 2000 1980 1990 2000 1980 1990 2000


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Part I – Strategic Housing


(The Twenty Percent Profit Margin)

Part II – Jobs Training, Educational


and Economic Empowerment

Part III - Financial Literacy

and Sustainability

Q-1 2029

Q-2 2029

Q-3 2029

LXVII Part IV – Solutions for Homelessness Q-4 2029


The Strategic Home Mortgage



Vol. XVI 2030 Sustainability

LXVIII Social Program Sustainability Q-1 2030


The Advocacy Foundation

Endowments Initiative

Q-2 2030

LXX Capital Gains Q-3 2030

LXXI Sustainability Investments Q-4 2030

Vol. XVII 2031 The Justice Series

LXXII Distributive Justice Q-1 2031

LXXIII Retributive Justice Q-2 2031

LXXIV Procedural Justice Q-3 2031

LXXV (75) Restorative Justice Q-4 2031

LXXVI Unjust Legal Reasoning Bonus

Page 118 of 134

Vol. XVIII 2032 Public Policy

LXXVII Public Interest Law Q-1 2032

LXXVIII Reforming Public Policy Q-2 2032

LXXVIX ... Q-3 2032

LXXVX ... Q-4 2032

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The e-Advocate Monthly Review


Transformational Problem Solving January 2018

The Advocacy Foundation February 2018

Opioid Initiative

Native-American Youth March 2018

In the Juvenile Justice System

Barriers to Reducing Confinement April 2018

Latino and Hispanic Youth May 2018

In the Juvenile Justice System

Social Entrepreneurship June 2018

African-American Youth July 2018

In the Juvenile Justice System

Gang Deconstruction August 2018

Social Impact Investing September 2018

Opportunity Youth: October 2018

Disenfranchised Young People

The Economic Impact of Social November 2018

of Social Programs Development

Gun Control December 2018


The U.S. Stock Market January 2019

Prison-Based Gerrymandering February 2019

Literacy-Based Prison Construction March 2019

Children of Incarcerated Parents April 2019

African-American Youth in The May 2019

Juvenile Justice System

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Racial Profiling June 2019

Mass Collaboration July 2019

Concentrated Poverty August 2019

Dyslexia September 2019

Page 121 of 134

The e-Advocate Quarterly

Special Editions

Crowdfunding Winter-Spring 2017

Social Media for Nonprofits October 2017

Mass Media for Nonprofits November 2017

The Opioid Crisis in America: January 2018

Issues in Pain Management

The Opioid Crisis in America: February 2018

The Drug Culture in the U.S.

The Opioid Crisis in America: March 2018

Drug Abuse Among Veterans

The Opioid Crisis in America: April 2018

Drug Abuse Among America’s


The Opioid Crisis in America: May 2018


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The e-Advocate Journal

of Theological Jurisprudence

Vol. I - 2017

The Theological Origins of Contemporary Judicial Process

Scriptural Application to The Model Criminal Code

Scriptural Application for Tort Reform

Scriptural Application to Juvenile Justice Reformation

Vol. II - 2018

Scriptural Application for The Canons of Ethics

Scriptural Application to Contracts Reform

& The Uniform Commercial Code

Scriptural Application to The Law of Property

Scriptural Application to The Law of Evidence

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Legal Missions International

Page 124 of 134

Issue Title Quarterly

Vol. I 2015



God’s Will and The 21 st Century

Democratic Process

The Community

Engagement Strategy

Q-1 2015

Q-2 2015

III Foreign Policy Q-3 2015


Public Interest Law

in The New Millennium

Q-4 2015

Vol. II 2016

V Ethiopia Q-1 2016

VI Zimbabwe Q-2 2016

VII Jamaica Q-3 2016

VIII Brazil Q-4 2016

Vol. III 2017

IX India Q-1 2017

X Suriname Q-2 2017

XI The Caribbean Q-3 2017

XII United States/ Estados Unidos Q-4 2017

Vol. IV 2018

XIII Cuba Q-1 2018

XIV Guinea Q-2 2018

XV Indonesia Q-3 2018

XVI Sri Lanka Q-4 2018

Page 125 of 134

Vol. V 2019

XVII Russia Q-1 2019

XVIII Australia Q-2 2019

XIV South Korea Q-3 2019

XV Puerto Rico Q-4 2019

Issue Title Quarterly

Vol. VI 2020

XVI Trinidad & Tobago Q-1 2020

XVII Egypt Q-2 2020

XVIII Sierra Leone Q-3 2020

XIX South Africa Q-4 2020

XX Israel Bonus

Vol. VII 2021

XXI Haiti Q-1 2021

XXII Peru Q-2 2021

XXIII Costa Rica Q-3 2021

XXIV China Q-4 2021

XXV Japan Bonus

Vol VIII 2022

XXVI Chile Q-1 2022

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The e-Advocate Juvenile Justice Report


Vol. I – Juvenile Delinquency in The US

Vol. II. – The Prison Industrial Complex

Vol. III – Restorative/ Transformative Justice

Vol. IV – The Sixth Amendment Right to The Effective Assistance of Counsel

Vol. V – The Theological Foundations of Juvenile Justice

Vol. VI – Collaborating to Eradicate Juvenile Delinquency

Page 127 of 134

The e-Advocate Newsletter

Genesis of The Problem

Family Structure

Societal Influences

Evidence-Based Programming

Strengthening Assets v. Eliminating Deficits

2012 - Juvenile Delinquency in The US

Introduction/Ideology/Key Values

Philosophy/Application & Practice

Expungement & Pardons

Pardons & Clemency

Examples/Best Practices

2013 - Restorative Justice in The US

2014 - The Prison Industrial Complex

25% of the World's Inmates Are In the US

The Economics of Prison Enterprise

The Federal Bureau of Prisons

The After-Effects of Incarceration/Individual/Societal

The Fourth Amendment Project

The Sixth Amendment Project

The Eighth Amendment Project

The Adolescent Law Group

2015 - US Constitutional Issues In The New Millennium

Page 128 of 134

2018 - The Theological Law Firm Academy

The Theological Foundations of US Law & Government

The Economic Consequences of Legal Decision-Making

The Juvenile Justice Legislative Reform Initiative

The EB-5 International Investors Initiative

2017 - Organizational Development

The Board of Directors

The Inner Circle

Staff & Management

Succession Planning

Bonus #1 The Budget

Bonus #2 Data-Driven Resource Allocation

2018 - Sustainability

The Data-Driven Resource Allocation Process

The Quality Assurance Initiative

The Advocacy Foundation Endowments Initiative

The Community Engagement Strategy

2019 - Collaboration

Critical Thinking for Transformative Justice

International Labor Relations


God's Will & The 21st Century Democratic Process

The Community Engagement Strategy

The 21st Century Charter Schools Initiative

2020 - Community Engagement

Page 129 of 134


The Nonprofit Advisors Group Newsletters

The 501(c)(3) Acquisition Process

The Board of Directors

The Gladiator Mentality

Strategic Planning


501(c)(3) Reinstatements

The Collaborative US/ International Newsletters

How You Think Is Everything

The Reciprocal Nature of Business Relationships

Accelerate Your Professional Development

The Competitive Nature of Grant Writing

Assessing The Risks

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Page 131 of 134

About The Author

John C (Jack) Johnson III

Founder & CEO

Jack was educated at Temple University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Rutgers

Law School, in Camden, New Jersey. In 1999, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia to pursue

greater opportunities to provide Advocacy and Preventive Programmatic services for atrisk/

at-promise young persons, their families, and Justice Professionals embedded in the

Juvenile Justice process in order to help facilitate its transcendence into the 21 st Century.

There, along with a small group of community and faith-based professionals, “The Advocacy Foundation, Inc." was conceived

and developed over roughly a thirteen year period, originally chartered as a Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Educational

Support Services organization consisting of Mentoring, Tutoring, Counseling, Character Development, Community Change

Management, Practitioner Re-Education & Training, and a host of related components.

The Foundation’s Overarching Mission is “To help Individuals, Organizations, & Communities Achieve Their Full Potential”, by

implementing a wide array of evidence-based proactive multi-disciplinary "Restorative & Transformative Justice" programs &

projects currently throughout the northeast, southeast, and western international-waters regions, providing prevention and support

services to at-risk/ at-promise youth, to young adults, to their families, and to Social Service, Justice and Mental

Health professionals” everywhere. The Foundation has since relocated its headquarters to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and been

expanded to include a three-tier mission.

In addition to his work with the Foundation, Jack also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law & Business at National-Louis

University of Atlanta (where he taught Political Science, Business & Legal Ethics, Labor & Employment Relations, and Critical

Thinking courses to undergraduate and graduate level students). Jack has also served as Board President for a host of wellestablished

and up & coming nonprofit organizations throughout the region, including “Visions Unlimited Community

Development Systems, Inc.”, a multi-million dollar, award-winning, Violence Prevention and Gang Intervention Social Service

organization in Atlanta, as well as Vice-Chair of the Georgia/ Metropolitan Atlanta Violence Prevention Partnership, a state-wide

300 organizational member, violence prevention group led by the Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory University and The

Original, Atlanta-Based, Martin Luther King Center.

Attorney Johnson’s prior accomplishments include a wide-array of Professional Legal practice areas, including Private Firm,

Corporate and Government postings, just about all of which yielded significant professional awards & accolades, the history and

chronology of which are available for review online. Throughout his career, Jack has served a wide variety of for-profit

corporations, law firms, and nonprofit organizations as Board Chairman, Secretary, Associate, and General Counsel since 1990.

Clayton County Youth Services Partnership, Inc. – Chair; Georgia Violence Prevention Partnership, Inc – Vice Chair; Fayette

County NAACP - Legal Redress Committee Chairman; Clayton County Fatherhood Initiative Partnership – Principal

Investigator; Morehouse School of Medicine School of Community Health Feasibility Study - Steering Committee; Atlanta

Violence Prevention Capacity Building Project – Project Partner; Clayton County Minister’s Conference, President 2006-2007;

Liberty In Life Ministries, Inc. – Board Secretary; Young Adults Talk, Inc. – Board of Directors; ROYAL, Inc - Board of

Directors; Temple University Alumni Association; Rutgers Law School Alumni Association; Sertoma International; Our

Common Welfare Board of Directors – President)2003-2005; River’s Edge Elementary School PTA (Co-President); Summerhill

Community Ministries; Outstanding Young Men of America; Employee of the Year; Academic All-American - Basketball;

Church Trustee.

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