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Story Publication logo June 8, 2015

Geography of Poverty: A Journey Through Forgotten America

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The Geography of Poverty is a digital documentary project that combines geotagged photographs with...


The most vulnerable Americans are being crushed by the grip of poverty, from the deserts of the Southwest through the black belt in the South, to the post-industrial, rusting factory towns that dot the Midwest and Northeast.

From border to border, high-poverty rates have crippled entire communities, leaving bellies burning with hunger and hope of better days dwindling. Income inequality has widened in recent decades while upward mobility has declined. A tiny percentage of high income Americans hold the majority of the wealth in this country.

Quite plainly, the rich have grown richer and if you're born poor here you're likely to die poor. The slight declines in the national poverty rate have done little to allay the day-to-day plight of so many who are just scraping by, largely invisibly and along the margins.

The poverty rate for African Americans and Hispanics is particularly stark, with 27% and 23.5% respectively falling below the poverty line.

In a sweeping story that ranges across the United States, photographer and Pulitzer Center grantee Matt Black, along with MSNBC, will spend the next few months profiling the struggles of Americans living near and under the poverty line. Trymaine Lee contributes a written account. The project will reach over 70 cities with disproportionately impoverished populations, chronicling stories of racial segregation, generational poverty, incarceration, and the personal trials of being poor in America.


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