Religion & Liberty Online

7 Figures: The Changing Geography of Poverty

7figuresA new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows how the geographic distribution of the poor has changed since the “war on poverty” began in 1960.

Here are 7 figures you should know from the report:

1. The nation’s official poverty rate has declined over the past half-century, from 22.1 percent in 1960 to 14.5 percent in 2013.

2. In 1960, half (49 percent) of impoverished Americans lived in the South. By 2010, that share had dropped to 41 percent.

3. In 2010, about one-in-five poor Americans (21 percent) lived in high-density counties such as Los Angeles in California, Queens in New York and Clark in Nevada. That rate is up from 14 percent in 1960.

4. Twelve of today’s most populous counties had poverty rates above the national average in 2010, including Los Angeles, Cook (Chicago) in Illinois, Maricopa (Phoenix) in Arizona, Kings (Brooklyn) in New York, and Dallas. In 1960, eight of these 12 counties had poverty rates below the national average.

5. In Appalachia, the poverty rate remains above the national average, but has been cut nearly in half (from 30.9 percent in 1960 to 16.6 percent in 2010).

6. In 12 counties in Texas that share a border with Mexico, the poverty rate has dropped from 49 percent to 31 percent.

7. The rates of poverty by region in 1960/2010 were: South (35.6/16.4 percent), Midwest (17.7/14.1 percent), Northeast (14.4/12.6 percent), West (16.1/14.8 percent).

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).