Overview of Community Characteristics in Areas With Concentrated Poverty. Residents of high poverty neighborhoods experience the negative effects of their surroundings, not just those who are impoverished.


It is well established that living in areas of highly concentrated poverty inhibits opportunity and mobility of poor residents, beyond the obstacles their individual economic circumstances already impose, and it limits the surrounding area’s economic potential and social cohesionI. The outcomes associated with living in areas of concentrated poverty are well documented and extend to non-poor as well as poor residents of these communities. These include: diminished school quality and academic achievement; diminished health and healthcare quality; pervasive joblessness, employment discrimination and reduced employment networks; increased crime, especially violent crime; declining and poorly maintained housing stock and devaluation of home values; and difficulty building wealth and experiencing economic mobilityII. Compounding these problems, individuals living in poverty-saturated areas are less likely to live in the vicinity of non-governmental social service organizations, and proximity to these organizations is a key factor in service utilizationIII. There is evidence to suggest that poor individuals who live in more-advantaged areas are, in some regards, “buffered from the most negative impacts of povertyIV.”

I See William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged. Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago Press, 1987; The Federal Reserve System and The Brookings Institution. 2008 “The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America: Case Studies from Communities Across the U.S.” Richmond, VA: The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

II Ibid.

III Kissane, Rebecca Joyce. 2010. “We Call it the Badlands: How Social-Spatial Geographies Influence Social Service Use.” Social Service Review 84(1): 3-28.

IV Dwyer, Rachel E. “Poverty, Prosperity, and Place: The Shape of Class Segregation in the Age of Extremes.” Social Problems 57(1):114-137.


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