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“Fragile Communities” Lack Economic, Social Mobility

“Fragile communities” in the U.S. lack opportunities for economic and social mobility, according to a new report published by Gallup, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Center for Advancing Opportunity, the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries.

Fragile communities are defined as “areas with high proportions of residents who struggle financially in their daily lives and have limited opportunities for social mobility.”

Forty-four percent of residents in fragile communities said they lacked sufficient funds to purchase enough food for their families at some point in the past year, compared to a nationwide average of 16 percent.

Residents of fragile communities who are age 25 and older tend to be less educated, with 12 percent holding a bachelor’s degree compared to 34 percent of all U.S. residents age 25 or older.

They also tend to have a lower household income, with only 15 percent of fragile-community residents earning $60,000 or more annually compared to 50 percent of all U.S. residents.

Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately represented, comprising 66 percent of residents of fragile communities while making up 29 percent of the overall U.S. population.

By comparison, 31 percent of non-Hispanic whites reside in a fragile community, while making up 68 percent of the U.S. population.

Fragile-community residents were less likely than the U.S. average to be employed 30 hours or more per week by a 38 percent to 44 percent margin. They are more likely to be unemployed and looking for work, with a fragile-community unemployment rate of 10 percent compared to 4.3 / 4.4 percent nationwide.

Health issues were cited by 30 percent of unemployed job seekers in fragile communities as their biggest challenge in finding employment, compared to 19 percent who said “not enough job openings,” 12 percent who said “available jobs don’t pay enough,” and 11 percent who said “need to care for children and family members.”

While fragile communities exist in every state and in a variety of locations, the report found that over the last two decades these communities have shifted to the suburbs as many inner cities are being renovated.

This trend creates challenges for social safety net providers whose services have traditionally been concentrated in cities.

“In 2016, more than 40 million Americans – 12.7 percent of the total population – lived below the official poverty line,” the report stated. “While poverty has declined 6.3 percentage points since 1964, we have miles to go to address the barriers to opportunity. And when we involve the government, the private sector, faith-based organizations and residents of fragile communities in the problem-solving business, things will begin to change.”

The full report is available here.