Friday, September 11, 2015

Urban migration has led to a decrease in rural poverty rates since 'War on Poverty' was declared

Urban migration has led to lower poverty rates in rural areas—especially in the South—since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a "War on Poverty" 50 years ago, Jens Manuel Krogstad reports for the Pew Research Center. According to U.S. Census data, the poverty rate in the South dropped from 35.6 percent in 1960 to 16.4 percent in 2010. The Midwest dropped from 17.7 percent to 14.1 percent, Northeast from 14.4 percent to 12.6 percent and the West from 16.1 percent to 14.8 percent. The overall rate dropped from 22.1 percent to 14.9 percent. The number of impoverished living in the South was 41 percent in 2010, down from 49 percent in 1960. While rates in the Midwest and Northeast have remained the same, the number of impoverished in the West has increased from 11 percent to 23 percent.

The main reason is migration, Krogstad writes. "As rural areas, such as in the Midwest, have become less impoverished since the 1960s, those areas make up a smaller share of the U.S. population overall. At the same time, urban centers have gained in total population and hold a greater share of the U.S. population overall." (Pew graphic)

"For example, in 1960, places like Maine and North Dakota had higher poverty rates than many of the nation’s biggest metro areas," Krogstad writes. "But by 2010, the reverse was true: High-poverty areas were in counties that are a part of the nation’s largest metro areas such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, but not in places like Nebraska and South Dakota. At the same time, the share of the population in the nation’s urban areas increased from 70 percent to 81 percent over that 50-year period."

While the South still struggles with poverty, with 14 of 16 states above the national average, rates are on the decline, Krogstad writes. "In Appalachia, the poverty rate remains above the national average, but has been cut nearly in half (from 30.9 percent in 1960 to 16.6 percent in 2010). Poverty is also entrenched in Texas counties that share a border with Mexico. In 12 border counties home to colonias—residential areas that lack basic infrastructure like clean water, septic or sewer systems or electricity—the poverty rate has dropped from 49 percent to 31 percent over the same time period."

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