Patterns of Poverty: A Regional Exploration of Poverty in America

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Existing research on American poverty largely focuses on the national average experience of poverty, offering sweeping conclusions. This article describes regional differences in poverty outcomes, challenging the notion that there is a nearly singular experience of poverty. For example, while some research argues poverty occurs most commonly in minority communities, this research provides evidence for, and descriptions of, poverty in mostly white areas on average. 725 counties were grouped into four distinct regions based on proximity, and Census definitions of US Regions. K-means clustering was leveraged across each of the regions, producing two clusters per region. One cluster presented a notably higher mean poverty rate than the other in all cases. Employment, health, and sociodemographic cluster means varied, revealing unique patterns of poverty-relevant outcomes. The relationship of cluster and poverty was validated against an external measure reflective of poverty using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). The relationship was found to be significant in two of four regions. Tukey’s post-hoc testing further detailed significant pairwise cluster differences. These results offer support for the utility of smaller-scale state or local anti-poverty policy, and support the hypothesis that poverty manifests differently across relatively small geographic regions.
poverty, health, economic, social