This paper documents changing patterns of concentrated poverty in nonmetro areas. Data from the Decennial U.S. Census Summary Files show that poverty rates—both overall and for children—declined more rapidly in nonmetro than metro counties in the 1990s. The 1990s also brought large reductions in the number of high-poverty nonmetro counties and declines in the share of rural people, including rural poor people, who were living in them. This suggests that America's rural pockets of poverty may be “drying up” and that spatial inequality in nonmetro America declined over the 1990s, at least at the county level. On a less optimistic note, concentrated poverty among rural minorities remains exceptionally high. Roughly one-half of all rural blacks and one-third of rural Hispanics live in poor counties. Poor minorities are even more highly concentrated in poor areas. Rural children—especially rural minority children—have poverty rates well above national and nonmetro rates, the concentration of rural minority children is often extreme (i.e., over 80% lived in high-poverty counties), and the number of nonmetro counties with high levels of persistent child poverty remains high (over 600 counties). Rural poor children may be more disadvantaged than ever, especially if measured by their lack of access to opportunities and divergence with children living elsewhere. Patterns of poverty among rural children—who often grow up to be poor adults— suggest that recent declines in concentrated rural poverty may be short-lived.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Lichter, D. T. and Johnson, K. M. (2007), The Changing Spatial Concentration of America's Rural Poor Population. Rural Sociology, 72: 331–358. doi: 10.1526/003601107781799290
Copyright 2007 by the Rural Sociological Society