If asked, most of us would say that our cities are healthier today than they were in 1970. But a new report from City Observatory and featured on Next City contradict that lazy assumption—showing how even more people live below the poverty line in cities than did 45 years ago.

It's easy to see how it could seem like poverty in cities has gone down over the last few decades, since gentrification gives the impression of improved economic circumstances in poor neighborhoods. And a few select formerly poor neighborhoods are experiencing explosive growth. But the people who used to live in these neighborhoods have mostly been pushed out, and elsewhere, poor neighborhoods are getting poorer, bigger, and more populous. City Observatory contributor Joe Cortright explains:

Less than 5 percent of 1970 high poverty neighborhoods have seen their poverty rates fall to below the national average over the past four decades. Far more common, and largely unnoticed, is a counter trend: the number of high-poverty neighborhoods in the U.S. has tripled, and the number of poor persons living in them has doubled since 1970.

Meanwhile, his original report hammers home the point with more stats:

While media attention often focuses on those few places that are witnessing a transformation, there are two more potent and less mentioned storylines. The first is the persistence of chronic poverty. Three-quarters of 1970 high-poverty urban neighborhoods in the U.S. are still poor today. The second is the spread of concentrated poverty: three times as many urban neighborhoods have poverty rates exceeding 30 percent as was true in 1970 and the number of poor people living in these neighborhoods has doubled.

The study is a keen reminder that while where you live in might be booming, a single neighborhood doesn't tell a whole city's story. The entire report is well worth a look. [Next City]

Image: BrooklynScribe/Shutterstock.


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