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Concentrated Areas of Poverty Reveal Deep Segregation and Racial Inequality in the Twin Cities

Part three of a four-part blog

In its February 2018 report on concentrated poverty in the Twin Cities—which we first referenced in part one of this blog—the Metropolitan Council cites four principal reasons why Areas of Concentrated Poverty (ACPs) matter. According to the Metro Council, ACPs:

  • Can significantly affect local tax bases
  • Are subject to disinvestment from both public and private resources
  • Produce what social scientists refer to as a place-based dimension of disparities
  • Considerably constrain the life chances its residents

ACPs are officially defined as census tracts where at least 40 percent of the residents live at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty threshold. Currently, according to the Metropolitan Council, there are more than 100 census tracts (in 16 cities) throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area that are presently identified as ACPs. 

Using a different criterium, the Washington DC-based Economic Innovation Group (EIG) recently released a study that defines “high poverty neighborhoods” as areas where at least 30 percent of residents live below 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. And, as data specialist Greta Kaul recently reported in MinnPost, the number of neighborhoods in Hennepin and Ramsey counties that meet this criterium have more than doubled since 1980 (from 19 to 41).

Of the 41 high poverty neighborhoods in these two counties, 40 fall into three of the four categories identified by the EIG: Newly Poor, Deepening Poverty, and Persistent Poverty. As for the other EIG category, Leaving Poverty/Turning Around, Kaul’s MinnPost story reveals that only the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis is currently classified as such. In other words, 2.4 percent of Twin Cities high poverty neighborhoods (as defined by the EIG) are in the process of “leaving poverty” as compared to 14 percent of such areas nationwide.

So, even while overall poverty rates in the Twin Cities metropolitan area have been trending down the last five years or so, concentrated poverty persists in the core cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and has even started to rise in the census tracts of suburban cities (including Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, and Roseville). 

Those most affected by concentrated poverty tend to be people of color, which has resulted in a new ACP subset known as ACP50s, where at least 50 percent of residents within a designated ACP are people of color as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau (or what the Department of Housing and Urban Development refers to as Racially/Ethnically Concentrated Areas of Poverty –R/ECAPs). 

As Kaul notes, the patterns of segregation that have resulted in high poverty neighborhoods (including ACPs and ACP50s) that we see today “have deep roots  in racially restrictive covenants and redlining, which dictated who could live where and who could buy housing, affecting patterns of education and generational wealth.”

Moreover, as Kenan Fikri, Director of Research at EIG adds:

“Once a community dips into decline, it’s very hard to pull back out of it based on how residential markets are structured… (the Twin Cities) are a poster child of American prosperity on the surface, but then underneath you have these really deep pockets of persistent poverty and inequality that haven’t been able to be overcome despite the wealth generated on the metropolitan scale.”

The current public health emergency has only exacerbated these disparities as the novel coronavirus has disproportionately and negatively impacted the social, economic, and health-related outcomes of low-income residents and people of color.

Tomorrow, in the final installment of this four-part blog, we will more closely examine the increasing number of ACPs (in particular ACP50s) in Ramsey County, in spite of an overall decrease in local poverty, and policy needs, options, and implications for the future.  

Our Impact This Year

  • People Who Received Utility Bill Assistance


  • Children Enrolled in Head Start & Early Head Start


  • People Whose Utility Bills Were Lowered Through Home Weatherization


  • Workers Provided with Transportation Support Including Vehicle Loans, Repair Grants, and Transit Passes


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