Areas with Concentrated Poverty
ACS and Other Sources


Areas of Concentrated Poverty (ACS)

These Census Bureau report analyzes demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of census tracts by categorizing the tracts based on their poverty levels. Tracts with poverty rates of 20% or more are considered “poverty areas”.  Recent reports draw data from the America Community Survey and older data come the the Census long form.

Frequency and Timespan: Reports issued irregularly, data for the the period 1990 to 2010

Geographic level of coverage: Estimates of concentrated poverty for states and regions

Publications available online


U.S. Census Bureau, Changes in Areas with Concentrated Poverty: 2000-2010. American Community Survey Briefs ACS-27 (PDF) U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2014.  Accessed 10/9/2014
U.S. Census Bureau, Areas with Concentrated Poverty: 2006-2010. American Community Survey Briefs ACSBR/10-17 (PDF) U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2011.  Accessed 7/16/2013
U.S. Census Bureau. Poverty Areas. Statistical Brief, June 1995 (HTML) Accessed 8/9/2013
U.S. Census Bureau. Areas with Concentrated Poverty: 1999. Census 2000 Special Reports CENS-16 (PDF) U.S Government Printing Office Washington, DC, 2005. Accessed 8/9/2013


Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium

This report, authored by Paul A. Jargowsky, compares the 2000 census data with the 2007-11 American Community Survey (ACS), revealing the extent to which concentrated poverty has returned to, and in some ways exceeded, the previous peak level in 1990.

Frequency and Timespan: One-time report covering 1990 to the present

Geographic level of coverage: Estimates of concentrated poverty for states and regions, some local area data

Publication available online


Jargowsky, Paul A. Concentration of Poverty in the New Millennium: Changes in Prevalence, Composition, and Location of High Poverty Neighborhoods (PDF). The New Century Fund and Rutgers Center for Urban Research and Education, 2013. Accessed 10/9/2014

By 2010, the Census Bureau employed optical scanners and computer software were used to convert handwritten questionnaires into electronic data. Photo courtesy U.S. Census Bureau.

How is poverty measured in the United States?
The two federal poverty measures in the U.S.

Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau counts people in poverty with two measures. Both the official and supplemental poverty measures are based on estimates of the level of income needed to cover basic needs. Those who live in households with earnings below those incomes are considered to be in poverty.


How does geography relate to poverty?
Data for regional and concentrated poverty

In 2015, poverty rates across the four Census geographic regions ranged from 11.7 percent in the Midwest, 12.4 percent in the Northeast, 13.3 percent in the West and 15.3 percent in the South. Because of the South’s largest share of the total U.S. population, it has the largest number of people who live in poverty compared to any other region.

What do we know about the geographic concentration of poverty?
Estimates from the American Community Survey


In 2010, 15% of people lived in poverty.  Poverty is not evenly distributed across neighborhoods and every state has neighborhoods with higher than average poverty rates.