America’s Biggest Problem Is Concentrated Poverty, Not Inequality

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A new piece by Richard Florida in CityLab argues that the growth of concentrated poverty in the United States is a far bigger problem than income inequality. He points to a recent study from the Century Foundation revealing that the number of people living in concentrated poverty has nearly doubled from 7.2 million in 2000 to 13.8 million people by 2013—the highest figure ever recorded. The data from this study also show the stark connection between race and poverty status. One in four black Americans and one in six Hispanic Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods, compared to just one in thirteen of their white counterparts.

Florida writes in his concluding paragraph:

In short, concentrated poverty is deepening. Far more troubling than simple income inequality, our nation is being turned into a patchwork of concentrated advantage juxtaposed with concentrated disadvantage. The incomes and lives of generation after generation are being locked into terrifyingly divergent trajectories. Now more than ever, America is in need of new 21st century urban policy.

The urban policy reforms that Florida recommends include building more affordable housing in affluent urban centers, raising the minimum wage to reflect local living costs, and investing in transit to connect disadvantaged areas to jobs and opportunity.

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