There are an estimated 39.5 million Americans living below the poverty line, which, in the lower 48 states, is an annual income threshold of $12,880 for an individual and $26,500 for a family of four (Alaska and Hawaii have a slightly higher threshold). Living in poverty can have serious consequences and impacts nearly every aspect of life -- and those problems can be compounded for those who are facing poverty while also living in very poor neighborhoods.

Residents of poor neighborhoods often struggle with higher crime rates, limited employment opportunities, lower school quality, and poor health outcomes. For those living on poverty level income, each of these factors reduces the likelihood of upward economic mobility.

There are eight metro areas across Iowa, and of them, Waterloo-Cedar Falls has the highest concentrated poverty rate. About one in every 10 of the 21,500 people in the metro area living below the poverty line reside in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40% or higher.

Disparities in economic opportunity between the metro area's poorest neighborhoods and the rest of the city are staggering. In the parts of Waterloo-Cedar Falls with 40% and higher poverty rates, an average of 19.2% of the labor force have been unemployed over the last five years -- more than five times the 3.4% jobless rate in the rest of the metro area.

All data used in this story are five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 American Community Survey. We only considered census tracts, or neighborhoods, with at least 500 people and college or graduate school enrollment below 50%. Metro areas were also excluded if over 25% of the population in tracts or neighborhoods of concentrated poverty were college or university students.

 

Metro area with worst extreme povertyPoor residents in high-poverty neighborhoodsOverall poverty rateOverall poverty rate, statewide
Alabama: Tuscaloosa16.7%18.2%16.7%
Alaska: NoneN/AN/A10.7%
Arizona: Phoenix9.9%13.6%15.1%
Arkansas: Little Rock7.8%15.0%17.0%
California: Fresno28.5%22.5%13.4%
Colorado: Pueblo5.9%18.8%10.3%
Connecticut: New Haven12.7%11.7%9.9%
Delaware: NoneN/AN/A11.8%
Florida: Tallahassee21.5%15.8%14.0%
Georgia: Albany35.3%24.2%15.1%
Hawaii: NoneN/AN/A9.4%
Idaho: NoneN/AN/A13.1%
Illinois: Danville20.6%18.9%12.5%
Indiana: Muncie18.7%17.2%13.4%
Iowa: Waterloo9.6%13.4%11.5%
Kansas: Wichita5.7%13.0%12.0%
Kentucky: Louisville11.2%12.3%17.3%
Louisiana: Monroe49.5%24.2%19.2%
Maine: Lewiston13.5%11.8%11.8%
Maryland: Baltimore9.3%10.0%9.2%
Massachusetts: Springfield23.4%14.8%10.3%
Michigan: Flint32.4%18.9%14.4%
Minnesota: Duluth7.9%13.0%9.7%
Mississippi: Jackson21.3%16.9%20.3%
Missouri: Cape Girardeau27.9%16.4%13.7%
Montana: Great Falls19.8%13.3%13.1%
Nebraska: Omaha3.8%10.3%11.1%
Nevada: Las Vegas5.1%13.7%13.1%
New Hampshire: Manchester2.9%7.8%7.6%
New Jersey: Trenton21.3%11.7%10.0%
New Mexico: Las Cruces26.1%26.3%19.1%
New York: Buffalo27.4%14.0%14.1%
North Carolina: Goldsboro12.5%20.2%14.7%
North Dakota: NoneN/AN/A10.7%
Ohio: Toledo26.0%16.0%14.0%
Oklahoma: Oklahoma City9.2%13.7%15.7%
Oregon: Medford2.3%15.5%13.2%
Pennsylvania: Reading28.8%12.0%12.4%
Rhode Island: Providence4.0%12.0%12.4%
South Carolina: Columbia7.9%14.4%15.2%
South Dakota: NoneN/AN/A13.1%
Tennessee: Memphis24.6%17.5%15.2%
Texas: Laredo46.4%27.5%14.7%
Utah: NoneN/AN/A9.8%
Vermont: NoneN/AN/A10.9%
Virginia: Roanoke15.9%12.9%10.6%
Washington: Yakima8.5%17.4%10.8%
West Virginia: Huntington14.8%18.8%17.6%
Wisconsin: Milwaukee17.4%13.1%11.3%
Wyoming: NoneN/AN/A11.0%