New research shows 60 percent increase in population in poverty

29th October 2014

The IU Southeast Applied Research and Education Center (AREC) released new research today that details the increase of those living below the poverty line in the four Metro counties in Southern Indiana between 2000 and 2010. The study found the population living below the poverty line on the Indiana side of the Louisville Metro region grew by nearly 60 percent, while the total population grew by only 8.4 percent.

This growth rate was in contrast to trends seen in the last decade of the 20th century, when poverty rates actually declined in Southern Indiana. Not only did the poverty rate increase in the first decade of this century, but it also became more concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods.

A high-poverty area is characterized as one with at least 20 percent of its population living below the federally defined poverty rate, currently $19,790 for a family of three. In 2000, about 20 percent of those living below the poverty line lived in such poverty-concentrated areas. In 2010, more than 33 percent lived in these areas.

“The poor are now more likely to be living among others in similar circumstances,” said Melissa Fry, director of the IU Southeast research center that released the data. “And those areas are less likely to see economic growth, further limiting the opportunities for those living there.”

According to Fry, these trends fit with national patterns that reflect increased unemployment during the recession, stagnant wages, slow recovery, and cuts to public programs that have historically kept many families from falling below the poverty line.

“We have only one neighborhood with a poverty rate above 40 percent,” Fry said, “but the uptick in both the incidence and concentration of poverty are cause for concern and indicate the need for action to prevent further increases.

Findings in the report also include neighborhood characteristics in poverty areas that suggest the need for more affordable housing, strategies to meet the needs of a growing Hispanic workforce, affordable healthcare and access to insurance, and attention to the needs of children living in poverty.

For example, in 2000, 20.3 percent of family households in poverty areas were female- headed single parent households. By 2010 that figure jumped to 34.6 percent, compared to 18.0 percent in the region overall.

“These communities need strong education, job training, and work and family supports that remove barriers to employment and support healthy families and balanced sustainable regional development strategies,” Fry said.

To see the full report, visit

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