The six-month study, entitled “The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty,” surveyed locations around the country. It identified Alameda Point, Berkeley, Hunter’s Point, uptown Oakland and West Oakland as Bay Area neighborhoods with at least 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line.
However, only 1.2 percent of the overall metropolitan population concentration in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont region was found to be living below the poverty line.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the current poverty threshold, adjusted for inflation, for a single-person household is an annual income of $10,830.
“If people have income that’s discretionary, they can spend it on restaurants clothes, entertainment and a lot of things that support a much wider range of businesses,” said Sean Randolph, president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, for which President John Hennessy serves on the Board of Trustees.
“If you have communities with very low incomes, they are probably drawing on public services and are unable to contribute–in ways that they might otherwise be able–to the larger economy around them,” he said.
In order to improve upon these numbers, Brookings Institution Senior Research Associate and the study’s lead researcher Elizabeth Kneebone suggested the implementation of new policies.
“Policies that foster balanced and sustainable economic growth at the regional level and that forge connections between growing clusters of low-income neighborhoods and regional economic opportunity will be key to longer-term progress against concentrated disadvantage,” she said.
The study comes at a time when the Occupy Wall Street movement has already sparked nationwide discussions on the definition of class gaps.
“The majority of people who are below the official poverty line enjoy a level of consumption that my parents never enjoyed,” said John Pencavel, senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). “Poverty is a relative concept. It is a measure really relative to the consumption level of other people in the community.”
The report also found that the percentage of people living in neighborhoods across the country with 40 percent or more of residents living below the poverty line increased from 9.1 percent to 10.5 percent over the past 10 years. However, this percentage actually decreased in the Bay Area.
This change could stem from the study’s finding that the populations of extreme-poverty neighborhoods increased more than twice as quickly in suburbs than in urban neighborhoods.
“We’ve had poverty throughout the Bay Area for a really long time,” Randolph said. “If we’ve seen some amelioration of those conditions in the last 10 years, then it’s a good thing, especially in light of the recent recession that we’ve just been through.”
According to Randolph, improvements upon these numbers have the potential to impact the national economy.
“What you want from a public-policy standpoint is to have that group be as small as possible, and you want pathways available to enable them to increase their income and their quality of life,” Randolph said. “Of course, you want to see measures that show that circumstances are indeed getting better, so it’s what we want with the Brookings study showing improvements withstanding the recession.”