The Geography of Poverty

Supported by The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, MSNBC, and The Pulitzer Center

Featuring Matt Black

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.

A native of rural California, Matt Black (b. 1970) grew up in a small town in the Central Valley, a vast agricultural area in the heart of the state. His work has explored the connections between migration, poverty, and the environment for two decades.

His work has been widely honored, receiving grants and awards from the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, the California Arts Council, Pictures of the Year International, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, the Sunday Magazine Editors Association and others. His work has also been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has received a Golden Eye award from the World Press Photo Foundation. He lives in Exeter, California, a small town in the Central Valley.

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