Background Research: concentrated poverty

As we have mentioned in the past, concentrated poverty is rising in Connecticut. An area of concentrated poverty is  defined as census tracts with poverty rates of  40 percent or more. Currently 5.4 million Americans live in these areas and the number has been increasing steadily since 2000. In a fascinating report, Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube at the Brookings Institution analyze photo7.jpg

the data. Surprisingly, suburban areas in the sunbelt are some of the hardest hit, but the numbers for some of Connecticut's metro areas are dismal:

Share of the poor population living in high poverty or distressed areas:

  • Harford/West Hartford/East Hartford: 22.3% live in concentrated poverty areas, 15th worst in the country.
  • New Haven/Milford metro area: 17.9% live in concentrated poverty areas, 25th worst in the country.
  • Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk: 7.9%, 71st worst in the country.
Why is this relevant? in one word: opportunity. Areas with lower income segregation have much higher income mobility, as kids that grow in mixed neighborhoods have access to better schools, more stable environments and better jobs for their parents. These pockets of concentrated poverty are, by themselves, huge barriers to the well being of the kids that live there and their families.
 
In Connecticut, of course, we have the added problem that many of these families can not just move out to a better area... mainly because our housing costs are exceptionally high. One acre zoning is, in a way, one of the most regressive policies that a town can enact.

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