Vulnerable Populations


The region's poverty rate is below the national average, but there is considerable variation across counties.

A family of four with an annual household income below $24,520 is considered to meet the 2015 Federal Poverty Level. The Kansas City Metropolitan Statistical Area's 2015 poverty rate (the number of people living in poverty divided by population) is 12.6 percent. Rates vary widely across counties, from a low of 6.2 percent in Johnson County to a high of 23.9 percent in Wyandotte County.

Population in Poverty by County, 2015
  Number Percent
Cass 9,805 9.9%
Clay 20,137 8.8%
Jackson 119,678 17.9%
Lafayette 3,706 11.5%
Platte 7,106 7.7%
Ray 3,598 15.9%
Allen 2,257 18.0%
Johnson 34,556 6.2%
Leavenworth 8,223 11.4%
Miami 2,949 9.2%
Wyandotte 37,693 23.9%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Decennial Census and 2015 ACS, 5-year data

The poverty rate is increasing in every county in the region.

Between 2000 and 2015, the poverty rate grew, both across the nation and in every county in the region. For the MSA, the poverty rate grew from 8.6 percent in 2000 to 12.6 percent in 2015, a 67.6 percent increase.



In percentage terms, poverty is growing most rapidly in suburban counties, while in absolute numbers, the growth is highest in urban counties.

To better understand what the increasing poverty trend means for the region, it is informative to look at the data both in percentage terms and in absolute terms.

In percentage terms, povertygrew fastest from 2000 to 2015 (by more than double) in the suburban counties of Johnson, Cass, Clay and Platte, and in mostly rural Ray County.

However, when we look at growth in the absolute numbers of people in poverty, a considerably different picture emerges. The most growth by number is occuring in Jackson and Johnson counties, with significant increases also in Wyandotte and Clay counties.

Pockets of concentrated poverty are even more apparent at smaller geographies.

The uneven distribution of poverty is even more apparent at the census tract level. The map below shows the highest concentrations of poverty in the urban core, but there are significant pockets of people in poverty in suburban areas.

Poverty impacts both family and community health.

Poverty is a major social determinant of health and health care access. A lack of income impacts a family's health in several ways:

  • It limits healthy lifestyle choices, since people may not be able to afford or easily access healthier foods and opportunities for activity and recreation.
  • It often coincides with a poor physical environment for health, with greater exposure to pollutants.
  • It makes it more difficult to access quality health care, especially for those who do not have health insurance.

As the previous charts illustrate, both the number of people living in poverty and the growth of poverty are unevenly distributed across the metro. The individual burdens of poverty, particularly health burdens, and the public costs of addressing these burdens also vary by county.

Data is the most current available as of September 2017.

Produced by the Mid-America Regional Council for the REACH Healthcare Foundation | ©