poverty rate, per capita income, concentration of poverty
Poverty refers to the percentage of individuals or families at or below the poverty line, which is a threshold issued by the US Census. This threshold does not vary geographically, but it is affected by things like family size, age, and inflation. Learn more about this calculation from the US Census Bureau.
Why does poverty matter?
Poverty affects the stability of families and their communities. High poverty rates are typically associated with higher crime rates, low levels of educational attainment, and challenges with housing quality and access. From 2000-2010, the number of Americans living in poverty rose to an all-time high of 46.2 million people. In 2010, over 15% of the nation’s population lived below the federal poverty line for a family of four ($22,314). Once living in poverty, families and individuals face an uphill battle to get out of poverty and above the poverty threshold. High poverty rates strain families as well as local and state governments as growing numbers seek assistance with housing, food, and health care costs.
Particularly in urban areas, individuals and families in poverty tend to cluster in neighborhoods where housing costs are low and access to services is high. Neighborhoods with concentrated poverty typically have much more significant challenges across the areas of education, housing, and public safety as compared to the cities in which they are located. Areas of extreme poverty are classified as having upwards of 40% of residents living below the poverty line. 
How do we measure poverty?
The Urban Initiative measures poverty through an analysis of poverty rates, per capita income, and concentration of poverty.
How is Fall River doing?
1. Proportion of individuals living in poverty: 23.2%
In 2015, the US Census Bureau reported an individual poverty threshold of $12,082. In Fall River, 23.2% of the population lives below the poverty line. The percentage of Massachusetts residents below poverty was 11.6%.
For children under 18, the poverty rate is 37.2%, meaning more than one-third of Fall River’s children live in poverty.
2. Per capita income: $21,718
While per capita income in Massachusetts is above the national average, per capita income in Fall River is below it. The following graph shows the difference in per capita income.
Per capita income in Fall River in 2015 was $21,718.
3. Number of extreme poverty neighborhoods: 1
The following map shows the concentration of poverty in Fall River. The map indicates one neighborhood of extreme poverty (>40% below the poverty line). This information is based on 2011 Census data.
How is New Bedford doing?
1. Proportion of individuals living in poverty: 23.4%
In 2015, the US Census Bureau reported an individual poverty threshold of $12,082. In New Bedford, 23.4% of the population was living below the poverty line in 2015. Among children under 18, the poverty rate is 34.1%.
2. Per capita income: $21,665
While per capita income in Massachusetts is above the national average, per capita income in New Bedford is below it. The following graph shows the difference in per capita income.
Per capita income in New Bedford in 2015 was $21,665.
3. Number of extreme poverty neighborhoods: 3
The following map shows the concentration of poverty in New Bedford. The map indicates three neighborhoods of extreme poverty (>40% below the poverty line). This information is based on 2011 Census data.
What’s being done to address poverty, and where can I learn more?
South Coast City-based Programs
The Coalition for Social Justice is an organization in southeastern Massachusetts that advocates for policy that will improve the lives of low-income families.
City Based Programs from Across the Nation
New York City – NYC’s Center for Economic Opportunity was established to help young poor, working poor, and children and families gain the education and opportunities they need to get out of poverty.
Savannah, Georgia – Step Up Savannah is a community initiative that brings together local businesses and volunteers to create new ways of workforce development building wealth and work supports.
State Level Programs
The Pathways Out of Poverty Grant Program by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center provides grants to help low to middle income families with job training and certification in the clean energy industry.
The New England Consortium is an advocacy group that pushes for policy reform to reduce poverty among low income families and children.
Data sources and methods
- Poverty Rates and Thresholds, and Per-capita Income data was captured using US Census Bureau, American Fact Finder. 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates. Data can be accessed at http://factfinder2.census.gov.
- Concentration of Poverty map was generated through Community Commons.