High-Poverty Areas Law and Legal Definition

High-poverty areas are defined as nonmetro areas with a poverty rate of 20 percent or more. This definition is consistent with the Census Bureau practice of identifying poverty areas. High-poverty areas are identified by one of two conditions: (1) over half of the poor population in the county is from a minority group or (2) over half of the poor population is non-Hispanic White, but it is the high poverty rate of a minority group that pushes the county’s poverty rate over 20 percent.

Poverty areas are census tracts or block numbering areas where at least 20 percent of residents were poor in 1989. Census tracts are small, statistical subdivisions of a county. They usually have between 2,500 and 8,000 residents and do not cross county boundaries. Just over two-thirds of poverty area residents lived in a metropolitan area. In some of these areas, poverty was especially widespread, as 40 percent or more of residents were poor. About 1 in 25 Americans lived in such a tract, known as an "extreme poverty area."