(March 2006) At the end of the 20th century, one in every five children in the United States lived in neighborhoods in which at least 20 percent of the population lived in poverty. Research has shown that children growing up in poor neighborhoods are at higher risk than children of affluent communities for health problems, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school, and other social and economic problems. And researchers often make reference to a “critical threshold” of neighborhood poverty, a percentage beyond which negative outcomes for families and individuals increase exponentially.

Written by Mark Mather, deputy director of domestic programs at the Population Reference Bureau, and Kerri L. Rivers, PRB research associate, The Concentration of Negative Child Outcomes in Low-Income U.S. Neighborhoods analyzes 2000 Census data and finds that negative child outcomes in the United States are highly concentrated in poor neighborhoods. But Mather and Rivers also find a linear association—not a threshold effect—between neighborhood poverty rates and child well-being. They also find that there are significant racial, ethnic, and geographic differences in the proportions of children residing in poor neighborhoods as well as in the concentrations of negative child outcomes.

The Concentration of Negative Child Outcomes in Low-Income U.S. Neighborhoods is part of a series of reports on the 2000 Census prepared for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT project. KIDS COUNT is a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the United States. For more information, visit the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT website at www.kidscount.org.