Here are 8 takeaways from Paul Jargowsky's findings in “The Architecture of Segregation: Civil Unrest, the Concentration of Poverty, and Public Policy.”
1. Syracuse has highest level of poverty concentration for blacks and Hispanics
The concentration of poverty is defined as the percentage of an area’s poor residents living in high-poverty zones. Concentration of poverty is highest for blacks, with one-fourth of the black poor residing in high-poverty areas. A black poor person is more than three times as likely and a Hispanic poor person is more than twice as likely than a white poor person to live in a neighborhood with a poverty rate of 40 percent or more. The increase in concentration of poverty has not been limited to one region, although the Midwest has been hit hard.
Syracuse has the highest level of poverty concentration for blacks and Hispanics out of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the nation. The number of high-poverty census tracts more than doubled, rising from 12 to 30. Nearly two-thirds of Syracuse’s black poor live in high-poverty neighborhoods.
2. Metropolitan and micropolitan areas host majority of high-poverty tracts
Ninety percent of high-poverty census tracts are located in metropolitan areas, which typically include one or more central cities of 50,000 or more persons and their associated suburbs. A smaller percentage of these neighborhoods, 7.6 percent, are located in “micropolitan areas,” which are defined as core cities of 10,000 to 50,000 combined with nearby towns and suburbs. Far fewer high-poverty neighborhoods are located in small towns and rural areas compared with metropolitan ghettos and barrios.
The total population of high-poverty neighborhoods also has grown, by 91 percent since 2000. The number of people living in these neighborhoods has been increasing for the major racial and ethnic subgroups, including non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Hispanics. While the growth is fastest for non-Hispanic whites, the minority residents of high-poverty areas are still more numerous than non-Hispanic whites.
3. High-poverty neighborhoods on the increase since 2000
High-poverty neighborhoods were a major concern in this country during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s, the minimum wage was increased and unemployment dropped to 4 percent. The Earned Income Tax Credit also reduced taxes for low-income Americans. This prompted a 25 percent drop in the number of persons living in high-poverty neighborhoods, from 9.6 million to 7.2 million.
Since 2000, however, the number of census tracts where the federal poverty rate was 40 percent or more has been increasing steadily. For instance, in Detroit, the number of high-poverty census tracts more than tripled, from 51 to 184. While concentration of poverty is often associated with the largest metropolitan areas, poverty grew fastest in small to mid-size metropolitan areas, meaning that suburbs are no longer immune to the effects of concentrated poverty.
4. High-poverty census tracts rise sharply after period of decline
From 1990 to 2000, the number of high-poverty census tracts declined by about 25 percent, from 3,417 to 2,510. Since 2000, however, the number of high-poverty census tracts went the other way, increasing dramatically until 2013.
Even before the 2009 financial crisis, during the period of 2005 to 2009, the number of high-poverty census tracts had increased to 3,310. After the 2009 financial crisis, the rate of increase did not slow; by 2013, the number of high-poverty census tracts had reached a total of 4,412, up 76 percent from 2000.
5. Suburban development at the expense of the city
The concentration of poverty is a product of public policy — structural forces, political decisions and institutional arrangements. The surge to the suburbs since about 1970 not only caused a population decline in cities and inner-ring suburbs, but also left the metropolitan areas abandoned and with underfunded resources. Taxpayers funded the new infrastructure — schools, roads, water and sewer — necessary to facilitate suburban growth.
The heavy focus on suburban expansion left existing infrastructure in the city abandoned and underutilized. These development practices left significant segments of the population living in neighborhoods where there is no work, there are underperforming schools and where there is little access to opportunity.
6. ‘Double disadvantage’ for poor who live in high-poverty neighborhoods
The poor who live in high-poverty neighborhoods experience the “double disadvantage” of having poverty-level family income while living in a neighborhood dominated by poor families and the social problems that follow. One such social problem of high-poverty neighborhoods is the potential impact on child and adolescent development. High-poverty neighborhoods produce high-poverty schools, and both the school and neighborhood affect student achievement.
Poor children are more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than poor adults. The gap in high-poverty neighborhood residence is even larger for the black poor and the Hispanic poor. Whites, however, show the opposite pattern, with white poor children less likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than white poor adults.
7. Immigration and the surge in concentrated poverty
Inner-city neighborhoods have become destinations for immigrants, both legal and illegal, seeking affordable housing and access to urban transportation networks. Foreign-born people constitute 17 percent of the total population of high-poverty areas. Concentration of poverty among the immigrant poor is almost the same as the concentration for the native-born poor, 14.5 percent compared with 14.4 percent. Thus, immigrants do not contribute more to the increase in the population of high-poverty areas relative to the native born.
Foreign-born persons are poorer on average than native-born persons — 18.7 percent versus 14.9 percent. However, immigrants do not align themselves along economic lines as do the native born. Immigrants cluster more on linguistic and cultural affinities than income levels. This increases the poverty rate in better-off neighborhoods, but decreases the poverty rate in neighborhoods with a high level of poverty among the native born. Removing immigrants from the poverty distribution would increase the number of high-poverty neighborhoods by more than 200. The presence of immigrants actually has a moderating effect on the concentration of poverty.
8. Exclusionary zoning and the abandonment of the poor
Exclusionary zoning and outright market discrimination have allowed the affluent to move to the richer suburbs, while the poor were left behind. For example, almost all of the high-poverty neighborhoods in the St. Louis metropolitan area are in the city of St. Louis, East St. Louis, and a few inner-ring suburbs such as Ferguson, Missouri. At the same time, there are 500 more suburbs that are part of the St. Louis metropolitan area that have zero high-poverty neighborhoods.
These richer suburbs have used exclusionary zoning, or the usage of zoning ordinances to exclude certain types of people from a community, to keep out affordable housing. This means the poor can only live in the central city and dying suburbs. The whole process is legally enforced and underwritten by the subsidies that go into building roads, sewers and schools for the new suburbs. Police in these areas are then asked to patrol the boundary between poverty zones and “decent” neighborhoods.