In this brief, authors Brian Thiede, Hyojung Kim, and Matthew Valasik discuss changes in poverty levels among U.S. counties using data from the 2000 U.S. Decennial Census and the 2005–2009 and 2011-2015 American Community Surveys. They report that the share of rural counties with high poverty rates (20 percent or more) increased from 20.6 percent in 2000 to 32.5 percent in the aggregate 2011–2015 data, and the share of high-poverty urban counties increased from 6.7 to 15.6 percent. The share of the population living in these high-poverty counties nearly doubled in both rural and urban areas during this period. Substantial increases in concentrated poverty occurred in rural areas both before and after the Great Recession, but increases in urban areas primarily occurred in years during and after the downturn. In rural areas, increases in concentrated poverty were greatest among micropolitan counties with small cities, which had historically been characterized by lower poverty rates than more sparsely populated and isolated areas. Increases in the population exposed to concentrated poverty were greater among the rural non-Hispanic white and black populations than among rural Hispanics. The authors conclude that the overall resurgence of concentrated poverty since 2000 should be of concern to policy makers and other stakeholders since areas with very high poverty rates face many social, economic, and health challenges.

Publication Date

Fall 11-21-2017


National Issue Brief No. 129


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2017. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.