From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Poor Neighborhoods Are Only Getting Poorer
Date June 1, 2020 4:32 AM
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[There are more communities living in poverty across U.S.
metropolitan areas than there were four decades ago — and the
neighborhoods that were already poor have even less now.]
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Marie Patino
May 26, 2020
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_ There are more communities living in poverty across U.S.
metropolitan areas than there were four decades ago — and the
neighborhoods that were already poor have even less now. _

The years haven't been kind to places like Baltimore, Maryland. ,
Spencer Platt/Getty Images


The latest maps of coronavirus cases in the U.S. confirm much of what
we already know about the economics of location: People in poor
neighborhoods have it worse
[[link removed]].
Health care isn’t as accessible, the ability to socially distance is
less, and many residents fall into the role of essential workers,
unable to work from home. What new research shows is that number of
poor neighborhoods in metropolitan areas has actually doubled from
1980 — and most existing low-income areas only fell deeper into

In two reports released by the Economic Innovation Group
[[link removed]] this month,
researchers Kenan Fikri and August Benzow analyze poverty data
provided by the U.S. Census Bureau between 1980 and 2018. The measure
used by the researchers is the Official Poverty Measure (OPM), which
has been in place since President Lyndon Johnson
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a “war on poverty” in 1964. They acknowledge the metric has
flaws. The poverty threshold is just one number
[[link removed]] — $26,200
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the “minimum level of resources adequate to meet basic needs,”
according to the Census Bureau. That is to say the cost of what was
considered a minimum in 1963 for a household of four, converted in
today’s dollars.

Fikri and Benzow broke neighborhoods into four categories for their

* The newly poor, when a community went from low poverty (fewer than
20% of individuals living below the poverty line) to high poverty (30%
or more) during the time frame.
* The persistently poor, when a community remained high poverty
during the time frame.
* Deepening poverty, when the rate was between 20% and 30% in 1980
and climbed above 30% by 2018.
* Turnaround cases, when a neighborhood moved from a high poverty
rate to a low one.

The gap in median income between high- and low-poverty neighborhoods
increased significantly during the 38 years of the study, too:
High-poverty neighborhoods went from a $25,000 to a $29,000 in median
household income, and low-poverty neighborhoods from $65,000 to
$79,000 in median household income (all values in 2018 dollars).

“Back in the 1980s, we had far more mixed-income neighborhoods,”
Fikri said in an interview. “What we’re seeing is that Americans
segregate more by income, so the number of poor neighborhoods is

Just as the number of poor metro neighborhoods has doubled, so has the
number of people living in them — 24 million people were living in
these high-poverty communities in 2018, according to the research.

“This is a failure of the national economy to create a lot of
pathways out of poverty,” Fikri said. “National economic growth
clearly is insufficient for poor people and poor places.”

Only 14% of all the metropolitan census tracts studied by the
researchers had undergone an economic turnaround, going to a rate of
low poverty from a high one.

There is not much evidence to suggest that these turnarounds happen
organically, said Alan Mallach, senior fellow at the Center for
Community Progress [[link removed]], whose
book, _The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America
[[link removed]],_ tackles
the topic. “In some cases, people living in the neighborhood benefit
from the change, but they’re not driving it.”

And in some neighborhoods, “turning around” is a synonym for a
“wholesale shift of populations” living in them, Mallach said. A
few, however, have managed to strike a balance: In St. Louis
[[link removed]], Missouri, the
“balanced gentrification” of the Fox Park neighborhood has been
managed by a nonprofit community development corporation, which
created affordable housing as part of the process.

Another dimension of the neighborhood poverty issue, the research
highlights, is that most people who are poor now also tend to live in
a poor neighborhood. The two were once less tightly linked: In the
1980s, people could be poor and live in low-poverty neighborhoods.
This has become a rarity, making it harder to escape poverty as a
whole — from deteriorated public services to the lack of educational

“The zip code you’re born in determines your health, but the zip
code you’re born in is determined by your race and ethnicity.”

Those factors also make low-income areas in the U.S. an easy target
for epidemics. “People are often living in more crowded spaces, so
you’re having more opportunity for transmission of infectious
diseases,” said Grace Noppert [[link removed]],
postdoctoral scholar at the Carolina Population Center at the
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “You also have more
people mixing and mingling in crowded spaces in those communities.”
The stress of the environment also makes residents more vulnerable to
diseases. Noppert has studied the impact of tuberculosis on poor
communities and Covid-19, just like TB, is not sparing these
communities, either.

And this comes with demographics attached: A low-income African
American is three times more likely to live in a poor neighborhood
than a low-income white person, even though the demographics of poor
neighborhoods has changed in the past decades, and an increasing
number of Hispanics are now in these underserved communities, the
study highlights. “The zip code you’re born in determines your
health,” Noppert said, “but the zip code you’re born in is
determined by your race and ethnicity.”

Reversing the trend isn’t easy — and Fikri and Benzow don’t
spend much time on this in their report. To Mallach, instead of trying
to economically “turn around” poor neighborhoods, local officials
should focus on improving existing living conditions. “If you are
poor, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have the opportunity to
live in a decent neighborhood,” he said.

_Marie Patino is a writer at Bloomberg CityLab.  She does data
visualization and data analysis. Marie is a Columbia Journalism School
grad, where she studied data journalism. She says:_

_“Before that, I was somewhere in France (I'm French, so that
explains it), probably reading things sociology-related. I code and
design things. I can also write, and I'm terrible at crossword
puzzles. I also rant about things on Twitter every once in a
while. My code is always on GitHub. A semi-exhaustive list of the
things I use: Python, R, SQL, HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, D3.js, Node.js,
Parcel, Bootstrap, QGIS, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe
Lightroom, Excel, Tableau, SVG Crowbar, AI2HTML, pgAdmin, and probably
other things, but this list is supposed to be semi-exhaustive

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