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Living in a poor place might make it harder to get out of poverty | Deseret News National
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Tony Dejak, Associated Press
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Living in a poor place might make it harder to get out of poverty

The recession hasn't hit everywhere equally. Poor neighborhoods have gotten poorer in taking the brunt of the downfall, according to a Census Bureau report released Monday.

In the last 14 years, more people have moved into low-income neighborhoods, or what the study calls "poverty areas." These areas are defined as a census tract with a rate of 20 percent poverty or higher, and the number of people living in these places has gone up from 49.5 million in 2000 to 77.4 million in 2008-2012. Now 1 in 4 Americans live in "poverty areas."

The reasons why have to do with cost-of-living and lack of jobs, experts say.

“With the advent of the financial crisis and the bursting of the housing bubble, many people lost their homes and thus needed to rent or move in with relatives,” Cheryl Carleton, an economics professor at Villanova University told the The Christian Science Monitor. “Individuals need to move where they can afford to live ... which is going to be in areas where public housing is available or housing prices and rental rates are low, which is more likely to be in a ‘poverty area.’"

Although poverty rose overall, the number of people living in poverty areas declined in some states like Louisiana, West Virginia, Alaska and Hawaii. In other states like Arkansas, North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee saw the number of people living in poverty areas go up.

According to the 2008-2012 figures, the percentage of people living in poverty areas ranged from 6.8 percent in New Hampshire to a whopping 48.5 percent in Mississippi.

The real issue with poverty areas, the report's authors noted, is that moving into a poor neighborhood might actually make it harder to get out of poverty.

"Researchers have found that living in poor neighborhoods adds burdens to low-income families, such as poor housing conditions and fewer job opportunities," said the report's author, Alemayehu Bishaw of the Census Bureau's Poverty Statistics Branch.

Lack of decent schools and health care options, plus poor food options, or "food deserts," and exposure to crime also add to the struggle of living in a poor area.

White people made up the biggest increase of those living in poverty areas, the number of has almost doubled from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 20.3 percent in 2012. African-Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives were the groups most likely to live in poverty areas. Among family types, single-mother households were most likely to live in poverty areas at 38 percent.

Research has established that children from neighborhoods with a high number of single parents have less upward mobility, but Bradford Wilcox, director of graduate studies in the sociology department at the University of Virginia, told the Christian Science Monitor that this report "also suggests the converse."

"Neighborhoods characterized by high levels of poverty are also less likely to supply the economic resources that lead to stable, two-parent homes," he said. “Ours is an increasingly 'separate and unequal' nation where affluent Americans are more likely to enjoy the benefits of marriage and a stable family life, and poor Americans are increasingly consigned to unmarried and unstable families."

Email: laneanderson@deseretnews.com