Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Regional Research Institute

Document Number

Working Paper #9903


Regional Research Institute


We explore how poverty differs between urban and rural areas and among U.S. regions, using metropolitan versus nonmetropolitan to proxy urban versus rural. Our study focuses on social and demographic characteristics, rather than economic characteristics. We are concerned with which personal characteristics appear to increase the risk of poverty, regardless of whether these characteristics manifest themselves through unemployment, low-wage employment, or some other economic problem that ultimately leads to poverty. Using data for the working-age population from the one percent Public Use Microdata Sample of the 1990 Census of Population and Housing, we find significant differences in predictors of poverty across area types and regions. Our empirical results suggest that anti-poverty programs should vary across area types and regions in order to meet the unique needs of each location’s low-income population.