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A mother and son walk through a neighborhood in Stockton, Calif. Photo by Nick Otto/AFP via Getty Images

The number of high-poverty neighborhoods in the U.S. has increased at an alarming rate over the past 38 years, according to a new report out Tuesday from the Economic Innovation Group.

Why it matters: The analysis found that more and more neighborhoods that fall into poverty end up staying there. Stagnant wage growth in these places has made it very difficult for them to improve their fortunes even in good times — and that was before the severe economic crisis brought on by coronavirus.

By the numbers: Two-thirds of metropolitan neighborhoods that were high poverty — a 30% poverty rate or higher — in 1980 were still high poverty in 2018.

  • Nationally, only 14% of neighborhoods that were high poverty in 1980 had turned around to become low poverty —a poverty rate of less than 20% — by 2018.
  • "In the end, for every one high-poverty neighborhood that dramatically improved, there were five low-poverty ones that suffered dramatic deterioration," per the report.
Reproduced from EIG analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data and American Community Survey 5-year estimates. Note: EIG defines Newly poor as rate < 20 % in 1980, >=30% in 2018, Deepening poverty as rate >=20% and <30% in 1980, >=30% in 2018, Persistent poverty as rate >=30% in 1980, >=30% in 2018 and Turned around as rate >=30% in 1980, <20% in 2018; Chart: Axios Visuals

What's happening: Persistently poor neighborhoods tend to be clustered near city centers in the Northeast and South — in cities like Newark, Baltimore, Memphis and Atlanta.

  • Newly poor neighborhoods tend to be further away from urban cores and near persistently poor neighborhoods in Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit or high-growth Sun Belt hubs like Phoenix and Houston.

Turnaround neighborhoods — those that went from high poverty in 1980 to low poverty in 2018 — are rare. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles accounted for one-third of all such neighborhoods in the U.S.

  • In most cities, the few neighborhoods that did manage to climb out of poverty were in or near downtown districts.
  • Nearly half of the country's 100 most populous cities had no turnaround neighborhoods at all, partly because many had so few high-poverty areas in 1980.
  • For example, Las Vegas had a single high-poverty neighborhood in 1980. Now, it has 23 new high-poverty neighborhoods.

Between the lines: In 1980, poor Americans were as likely to live in low-poverty communities as in high-poverty ones. Now, there's a much higher chance that poor Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods, meaning their exposure to economic opportunity and the social capital that fuels upward income mobility tends to be limited, said Kenan Fikri, one of the authors of the report.

  • "Combine that with the increasing income segregation that we're seeing, and you have a picture of an economic opportunity crisis that was bad while the tape was playing. Now the tape has run out, and it's poised to get significantly worse," he added.

The bottom line: The well-intentioned policy efforts to help pull neighborhoods out of poverty have been "piecemeal and inadequate," the report concludes, and the current economic crisis will drag even more communities deeper into poverty without intervention.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Aug 12, 2020 - Health

The two sides of America's coronavirus response

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

America's bungled political and social response to the coronavirus exists side-by-side with a record-breaking push to create a vaccine with U.S. companies and scientists at the center.

Why it matters: America's two-sided response serves as an X-ray of the country itself — still capable of world-beating feats at the high end, but increasingly struggling with what should be the simple business of governing itself.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Aug 13, 2020 - Health

We're doing a lot less coronavirus testing

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. is cutting back on coronavirus testing. Nationally, the number of tests performed each day is about 17% lower than it was at the end of July, and testing is also declining in hard-hit states.

Why it matters: This big reduction in testing has helped clear away delays that undermined the response to the pandemic. But doing fewer tests can also undermine the response to the pandemic.

The pandemic is hitting city budgets harder than the Great Recession

Expand chart
Data: National League of Cities; Chart: Axios Visuals

With tax revenue in free-fall and expenditures dramatically rising, the coronavirus pandemic is on pace to hit cities' finances even harder than the Great Recession.

Why it matters: Almost all cities are required to balance their budgets, and at this rate they'll have no choice but to cut more services, layoff or furlough more workers and freeze capital projects.