How long are exposures to poor neighborhoods? The long-term dynamics of entry and exit from poor neighborhoods

Lincoln Quillian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Although discussions of poor neighborhoods often assume that their residents are a distinct population trapped in impoverished environments for long durations, no past research has examined longitudinal patterns of residence in poor neighborhoods beyond single-year transitions. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from 1979 to 1990 matched to census tract data, this paper provides the first estimates of duration of stay and rates of re-entry in poor (20%+ poor) and extremely poor (40%+ poor) census tracts. The results indicate that (1) there is great racial inequality in longitudinal patterns of exposure to poor neighborhoods - most African Americans will live in a poor neighborhood over a 10 year span, contrasted to only 10 percent of whites; (2) exits from high poverty neighborhoods are not uncommon, but re-entries to poor neighborhoods following an exit are also very common, especially among African Americans; and (3) length of spell in a poor neighborhood is positively associated with low income, female headship, and, most of all, black race. Little of the racial difference is accounted for by racial difference in poverty status or family structure. Implications for research and public policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-249
Number of pages29
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003


  • Duration
  • Ghetto
  • Neighborhood
  • Poverty
  • Underclass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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