Counties with continuous high poverty since 1960 are largely rural

Map of the United States showing counties with consecutive decades of high poverty since 1960.

In 1960, 78 percent (2,412) of U.S. counties had poverty rates of 20 percent or more. Among them, 28 percent (680) continued to have high poverty through 1980. After enactment of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, commonly known as the War on Poverty initiatives, many counties reported reduced poverty rates. Between 1980 and 2019, poverty rates were relatively stable, mainly fluctuating with cyclical changes in the macroeconomy. As of 2019, there were 304 counties—13 percent of the counties with high poverty in 1960—that consistently had poverty rates of 20 percent or more over the last 60 years. The majority—264 counties—are rural counties and are clustered in the Appalachian States; the Black Belt in the South; the Mississippi Delta; the Ozarks region of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and southeast Kansas; the Southwest; and in counties with large American Indian and Alaska Native populations. This chart is a version of an interactive map on USDA, Economic Research Service’s Poverty Area Measures data product, updated November 2022.

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