Sunbelt Blues: Overlapping Poverty and Inequality

Poverty and inequality are bad things, but what happens when they coincide? A new study points to a startling increase in the number of U.S. counties suffering from both problems.

1 minute read

January 19, 2017, 8:00 AM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Homeless

Checubus / Shutterstock

In another symptom of middle class distress, counties across the United States are encountering higher rates of inequality combined with greater concentrations of poverty. Richard Florida covers a study tracking the development of this troubling reality since 1989.

He writes, "41 percent of U.S. counties suffer from high levels of combined poverty and income inequality, up from just 29 percent back in 1989. Worse, as the table below shows, just 28 percent of counties have low levels of poverty and low levels of inequality. In other words, more than 70 percent of counties have either high levels of inequality, high levels of poverty, or both." That increase applies across all county types: urban, suburban, and rural.

While many extol the Sunbelt for low costs and relatively high levels of opportunity, that only applies to some of its residents. For the rest, living next to prosperous neighbors, economic security isn't forthcoming.

"Today, the healthy pockets of green (representing low inequality and low poverty counties) are limited to the Midwest and Mountain regions of the country, along with parts of the Mid-Atlantic. The Sunbelt in particular has become America's economic distress belt, with high levels of inequality and poverty."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017 in CityLab

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Street scene in Greenwich Village, New York City with people walking through busy intersection and new WTC tower in background.

Planning for Accessibility: Proximity is More Important than Mobility

Accessibility-based planning minimizes the distance that people must travel to reach desired services and activities. Measured this way, increased density can provide more total benefits than increased speeds.

April 14, 2024 - Todd Litman

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

"No 710" lawn sign on green lawn.

LA Metro Board Approves New 710 Freeway Plan

The newest plan for the 710 corridor claims it will not displace any residents.

2 hours ago - Streetsblog LA

Close-up of row of electric cars plugged into chargers at outdoor station.

Austin’s Proposed EV Charging Rules Regulate Station Locations, Size

City planners say the new rules would ensure an efficient distribution of charging infrastructure across the city and prevent an overconcentration in residential areas.

3 hours ago - Austin Monitor

Green hills with orange California poppies in bloom in foreground in Chino Hills State Park, California.

Making California State Parks More Climate-Resilient

A recently released report offers recommendations for keeping state parks healthy and robust, including acquiring additional land for conservation and recreation.

4 hours ago - Spectrum News 1

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.