Concentrated Poverty

Desired Trend


Current Trend

Baseline (2006-2010): 13.8%
Current (2012-2016): 14.0%

Theme Inclusive


Percent of poor residents living in a concentrated area of poverty (census tracts with >40% poverty rate)

Why is it Important?

Areas of concentrated poverty are neighborhoods with high poverty rates. They are the result of economic segregation in our communities and have numerous consequences for the individuals residing within them and for the rest of society. Poor residents living in high poverty neighborhoods face additional difficulties beyond those caused by poverty alone, such as reduced access to amenities, jobs, and affordable goods and services. High poverty neighborhoods are also associated with increased crime, reduced opportunities for wealth building, and poorer health outcomes.

The effects of concentrated poverty extend outward to affect the rest of the community. Concentrated poverty increases costs for local government, which may increase the tax burden on local businesses and/or reduce the level of services. In addition, concentrated poverty signifies economic segregation in our communities, which prevents residents of a variety of economic classes from building relationships, thus resulting in reduced trust and civic capacity.1

How are we Doing?

In the St. Louis region, the percent of poor residents living in a concentrated area of poverty increased slightly from 13.8 percent in the baseline time period of 2006-2010 to 14.0 percent in 2012-2016.  The poverty population is more concentrated now than it was in 2000 when 12.4 percent of poor residents lived in a concentrated area of poverty. The previous 5-year American Community Survey (ACS), for 2011-2015 reported a higher rate, 15.5 percent. This indicates that the rate may be starting to decline but since the surveys use four of the same years, a trend cannot be reported using the 2011-2015 to 2012-2016 ACS data.

From 2006-2010 to 2012-2016, the number of people living in poverty in the St. Louis eight-county region increased 8.3 percent from just under 300,000 to about 323,000 individuals. The number of poor people living in concentrated areas of poverty increased 10.4 percent, from about 41,000 to 45,000 individuals, comprising 14.0 percent of all poor people. The number of census tracts that qualified as high poverty increased from 34 to 36.

The percent of poor black residents living in areas on concentrated poverty is almost 12 times higher than that of poor white residents. Over a quarter (27.4 percent) of poor black residents in the region live in high poverty areas compared to 2.3 percent of poor white residents.  

The disparity for the larger 15-county St. Louis MSA is even larger. The Where We Stand table shows that among the 50 most populous regions, St. Louis has the 2nd highest largest disparity between the percent of poor blacks and poor white who live in concentrated areas of poverty. Poor blacks are almost 14 times more likely than poor whites to live in these high poverty areas.  

Geographic Level

St. Louis eight county bi-state region, including Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties and city of St. Louis in Missouri and Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in Illinois. View map.


1 Community Affairs Offices of the Federal Reserve System and the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America: Case Studies from Communities Across the U.S. October 2008; accessed on 16 January 2014 at

Data Sources

U.S. Census and American Community Survey, United States Census Bureau