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Concentrated poverty concerns the spatial distribution of socio-economic deprivation, specifically focusing on the density of poor populations.[1] Within the United States, common usage of the term concentrated poverty is observed in the fields of policy and scholarship referencing areas of "extreme" or "high-poverty." These are defined by the US census as areas where "40 percent of the tract population [lives] below the federal poverty threshold."[2] A large body of literature argues that areas of concentrated poverty place additional burdens on poor families residing within them, burdens beyond what these families' individual circumstances would dictate. Research also indicates that areas of concentrated poverty can have effects beyond the neighborhood in question, affecting surrounding neighborhoods not classified as "high-poverty" and subsequently limiting their overall economic potential and social cohesion. Concentrated poverty is a global phenomenon, with prominent examples world-wide.[3] Despite differing definitions, contributing factors, and overall effects, global concentrated poverty retains its central theme of spatial density. Multiple programs have attempted to ameliorate concentrated poverty and its effects within the United States, with varying degrees of progress and to sometimes detrimental effect.[4]

Gecekondu neighborhood in Ankara, Turkey

Similar to Brazil, Turkey experienced an explosive rate of Turkey experienced an explosive rate of urbanization throughout the 20th century, leading to various hasty attempts at expanding urban housing capacities.[42] Citing a variety of Turkish government sources, the Middle East Institute describes Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, as increasing its share of the total Turkish population from 5% in 1955 to at least 14% in 2000, with continued growth patterns.[43] Gecekondu refers to neighborhoods built through legally-questionable methods to house rural migrants within or outside urban centers. The primary demographic of gecekondu residents are rural poor seeking improved living conditions and urban employment. Research published in Turkey's Megaron journal by Bektaş & Yücel outline vast problems faced by the residents of gecekondus, relating primarily to their integration to urban life, as well as spatial distribution.[44] In essence, their study reveals the impact of continued rapid migration patterns and insufficient governmental responses on urban inequality. As more residents settle into urban centers, the concentration of poverty increases while resources become increasingly scarce. Gecekondu residents face additional hardships due to the questionable legality of their housing: as gecekondus are traditionally built through legal loopholes, avoiding costs associated with formal land use, residents may encounter a problematic relationship with government entities. In a paper for the journal Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, researcher Tahire Erman explores the relationship between gecekondu residents and government intervention, revealing the residents' decreasing bargaining power. Primarily, the demographic makeup of gecekondus have led to varying levels of government attention to different neighborhoods. As the years progressed and Turkish politics shifted toward neoliberalism, neighborhoods grew increasingly divided, with the largest ramifications being a loss of collective bargaining power. Consequently, residents are more vulnerable to displacement and face increasing governmental neglect. Overall, gecekondu neighborhoods stand as examples of the negative effects inherent to and generated by concentrated poverty, with residents facing poor living conditions and socioeconomic and political barriers to integration.[45]

Examples of policy interventions

United States

Begging in the early 1990s, federal housing policy has focused on reducing the spatial concentration of poverty, accomplished through three methods:

  1. Creating income diversity within public housing developments that continue to be owned and operated by public housing authorities under the rules of the public housing program.
  2. Creating income diversity in new or redeveloped housing projects, including former public housing projects redeveloped under the HOPE VI program.
  3. Encouraging the use of tenant-based housing

    Begging in the early 1990s, federal housing policy has focused on reducing the spatial concentration of poverty, accomplished through three methods:

    1. Creating income diversity within public housing developments that continue to be owned and operated by public housing authorities under the rules of the public housing program.
    2. Creating income diversity in new or redeveloped housing projects, including former public housing projects redeveloped under the HOPE VI program.
    3. Encouraging the use of tenant-based housing vouchers for families to locate in neighborhoods that will improve the life opportunities of family members.

    Mobility programsMoving To Opportunity (MTO) pilot program provided section 8 vouchers to public housing residents to enable them to move out of public housing and into neighborhoods with lower poverty. Modeled after Chicago's Gautreaux program, which provided housing vouchers to black public housing residents so they could move to more integrated neighborhoods, MTO stands as an example of "mobility programs" aimed at enabling poor families from high-poverty neighborhoods to move into communities featuring decreased poverty levels, such as middle-class neighborhoods.

    Comparatively, the Gatreuax program exhibited stronger and clearer results than MTO. The program assigned participants selected from the same pool of callers to random private apartment placements in either suburban or urban locations. Follow-ups several years later revealed different outcomes between suburban and urban participants. Namely, urban participants were more likely to have remained on welfare rolls while their suburban counterparts were very likely to find employment and leave welfare programs. Additionally, children of urban participants were likely to drop out of high school while suburban participants were likely to graduate from high school and proceed towards college. The children of both types of participants began below the average academic level of their peers, however due to the lower number of participants selected for suburbs, suburban participants' children experience greater individual instruction. In turn, subur

    Comparatively, the Gatreuax program exhibited stronger and clearer results than MTO. The program assigned participants selected from the same pool of callers to random private apartment placements in either suburban or urban locations. Follow-ups several years later revealed different outcomes between suburban and urban participants. Namely, urban participants were more likely to have remained on welfare rolls while their suburban counterparts were very likely to find employment and leave welfare programs. Additionally, children of urban participants were likely to drop out of high school while suburban participants were likely to graduate from high school and proceed towards college. The children of both types of participants began below the average academic level of their peers, however due to the lower number of participants selected for suburbs, suburban participants' children experience greater individual instruction. In turn, suburban children eventually reached the same level of academic proficiency as their average classmates.

    On the other hand, participants of the MTO program experienced non-significant changes in employment and educational improvement, with nearly half of all participants moving back or remaining in their original neighborhood. Most participants did not move into suburbs, instead moving more frequently into other nearby urban neighborhoods with lower poverty levels. The program did show significant improvements regarding the fostering of a sense of security among participants, resulting in the reduction of stress, fear, and depression, particularly among women and young girls.[46]

    Several scholars have questioned both the success and broader ability of such policy interventions as an adequate response to concentrated poverty. Goetz argues that voluntary programs like MTO and Gautreaux, though justifiable on other grounds, will not make a dent in concentrated poverty for two reasons:

    MTO, Gautreaux and other voluntary mobility programs can apply to only a subset of the poor by the political reality of destination communities. Low-poverty areas are not anxious to receive large numbers of poor, public housing families, and there will typically be political backlash if current residents feel that these families are being forced into their neighborhoods, and it was this type of resistance that ended the expansion of the program in 1995. Venkatesh and Celimi point out, dispersal programs incorrectly assume the poor can relocate as easily as the middle class does. In fact, very real resource constraints limit the ability of public housing families to abandon existing support networks, and these constraints limit the attractiveness of dispersal strategies to poor families.[48] Lastly, mobility programs have historically contributed to disadvantages for the current residents of neighborhoods where poor families have been relocated.[49]

    Hope VI

    Hope VI is a federal housing plan designed to revitalize American public housing projects into mixed-income developments. In most cases, such projects involve demolishing older high rise buildings composed entirely of extremely low-income residents and constructing higher quality, low-density, housing with various tiers of income earners.[50]

    While Hope VI has successfully de-concentrated public housing sites, it has done little to de-concentrate poverty within poor neighborhoods in general.[51] Public housing families who are displaced and relocated typically re

    While Hope VI has successfully de-concentrated public housing sites, it has done little to de-concentrate poverty within poor neighborhoods in general.[51] Public housing families who are displaced and relocated typically re-concentrate in other poor neighborhoods nearby. Very rarely do these families relocate to low-poverty suburbs. Over half of families relocated by HOPE VI either move into other public housing or use vouchers to rent units on the private market. Public housing units are more likely to be in low-income neighborhoods. Families using vouchers are also likely to move into low-income areas, as they are more likely to find program-eligible units and landlords willing to rent to them.[52] Therefore, while HOPE VI has significantly improved the physical quality of several public housing sites and the lives of former residents given units in the new developments, it has come short of addressing the issue of concentrated poverty at large.[53]