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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.
January 19, 2017, 8am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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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."

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Published on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 in CityLab
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