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The Geography of Exclusion: Race, Segregation, and Concentrated Poverty

May 2011

Daniel T. Lichter, Cornell University, Domenico Parisi and Michael C. Taquino, Mississippi State University

Download '2011-16 NPC Working Paper.pdf'.


The late 2000s Great Recession has refocused the nation’s attention on poverty, racial and ethnic inequality, and spatial disparities in income. This paper uses newly-released place and county poverty estimates from the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, along with estimates from the 1990 and 2000 decennial census summary files, to provide post-2000 estimates of concentrated poverty in metro and nonmetro areas. We document a 25 percent increase in the number of poor places during the post-2000 period (and growing shares of poor people living in them) after deep and widespread declines in concentrated poverty during the economic boom of the 1990s. Not only are America’s poor likely to be living in poor areas, but the post-2000 period ushered in a new pattern of spatial (and social) isolation of America’s poor. Patterns of class and racial segregation were distinct but overlapping phenomena. Poor minorities—both in metro and nonmetro areas—are highly ghettoized spatially at the macro-scale level (across communities and counties). Rural blacks, in particular, are especially likely to be concentrated in poor places and counties. Previous studies of concentrated poverty, which have focused largely on inner-city neighborhoods, may be missing an important spatial dimension of growing poverty and racial inequality during the 2000s.

Poverty Trends and Measurement, Race and Ethnicity