By Jenny Connelly-Bowen, CBN Graduate Research Assistant

This week, we’re sharing an interactive map that accompanies City Observatory‘s “Lost in Place” report. “Lost in Place” argued in 2014 that concentrated poverty is a bigger problem for urban areas than gentrification. The report suggests that although gentrification often attracts a great deal of attention, it remains relatively rare in comparison to concentrated poverty, which tends to spread slowly and quietly over time. “Lost in Place” authors report that of the neighborhoods their study classified as high-poverty in 1970, 75 percent of them remained high-poverty areas in 2010. By contrast, their data suggest that poor neighborhoods have just a one in 20 change of gentrifying. A follow-up infographic breaks “Lost in Place” into a digestible overview, highlighting these observations alongside several other key findings:

  • Poor neighborhoods tend to remain poor and lose population over time.
  • Twice as many Americans lived in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty in 2010 than in 1970.
  • There were nearly three times as many high-poverty neighborhoods in 2010 as there were in 1970.
  • Income integration has positive effects on child outcomes and intergenerational income mobility.

As City Observatory summarizes, the social and economic costs of concentrated poverty are high:

“To be poor anywhere is difficult enough, but a growing body of evidence shows the negative effects of poverty are amplified for those who live in high-poverty neighborhoods—places where 30 percent or more of the population live below the poverty line. Quality of life is worse, crime is higher, public services are weaker, and economic opportunity more distant in concentrated poverty neighborhoods. Critically, concentrated poverty figures prominently in the inter-generational transmission of inequality: children growing up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty have permanently impaired economic prospects.”

What do City Observatory’s findings reveal about the St. Louis region? The interactive map below suggests that poverty in our area is concentrated in North and East St. Louis, with some poor neighborhoods also clustered in South St. Louis. Hover your mouse over an individual census tract to reveal a pop-up box with tract-level population and poverty data:

“Lost in Place” authors identify five neighborhood types in their methodology:

  • High Poverty Neighborhoods, which had a poverty rate of 30 percent or higher in 1970 or 2010
  • Chronic High Poverty Neighborhoods, which had a poverty rate of 30 percent or higher in 1970 and 2010
  • Newly Poor Neighborhoods, which had a poverty rate of less than 30 percent in 1970, but 30 percent or higher in 2010
  • Fallen Star Neighborhoods, which had a poverty rate of 15 percent or lower in 1970, but 30 percent or higher in 2010
  • Rebounding Neighborhoods, which had a poverty rate of 30 percent or higher in 1970, but 15 percent or lower in 2010

Chronic High Poverty (purple), Newly Poor (yellow), and Fallen Stars (orange) census tracts dominate the map of the St. Louis region above, although there are two Rebounding tracts in the Central Corridor.  Consistent with the report’s general observations, many of St. Louis’ high-poverty tracts lost population between 1970 and 2010. However, since the region’s population also fell dramatically overall between 1970 and 2010, City Observatory’s data recap on the St. Louis region (shown below) might provide more telling insights on our area. These numbers reflect a sprawling trend: the number of High Poverty census tracts in the St. Louis region has more than tripled since 1970, but the population in poverty living in Chronic High Poverty census tracts—tracts that have been poor since 1970—declined by more than 50 percent between 1970 and 2010. At the same time, since 1970, the total population living in Newly Poor neighborhoods has more than doubled, and the total population living in Fallen Star neighborhoods has nearly quadrupled.

In sum: these numbers seem to reflect City Observatory’s suggestion that poverty simultaneously displaces people and spreads out to more areas over time.



You can access City Observatory’s interactive “Lost in Place” data dashboard here and maps here. To see maps from previous editions of the Community Builders Exchange, click here.