For the first time, the Greater Louisville Project has tackled a key statistic that it believes is hampering the city’s overall competitiveness: poverty.

In its 2015 Competitive City update, “Louisville: A Focus on Poverty,” to be released on Tuesday, the group found the city ranks 15th out of its 17 peer cities, with one in seven Louisvillians living in concentrated poverty.

Louisville lags behind Cincinnati, Nashville, St. Louis and most other peers in this area. When it comes to experiencing poverty, the report points out, it is more than just a lack of income. “Its effects are felt not only in the wallet, but in every barrier to health and well-being,” the report says.

Greater Louisville Project's poverty ranking.
Greater Louisville Project’s poverty ranking.

“This report explicitly connects poverty to our city’s competitiveness and highlights the interconnected nature of the barriers to success for many of our citizens,” said Ben Reno-Weber, director of the Greater Louisville Project, in a news release.

Reno-Weber will be talking about the report’s finding Tuesday afternoon at Louisville Urban League, with speakers including Mayor Greg Fischer; Sadiqa Reynolds, Louisville Urban League president; Dr. Brandy Kelly Pryor, Louisville’s Center for Health Equity director; and Brian Riendeau, executive director of Dare to Care.

In the report, GLP examined 24 neighborhoods, using census data and an index from the Brookings Institution that looks beyond just income. To evaluate concentrated poverty in Louisville neighborhoods, the group considered education, health, jobs and quality of place.

It found the most impoverished neighborhoods were: Russell, Portland, Phoenix Hill/Smoketown/Shelby Park and South Central Louisville. Together, they represent 55,000 residents and 7.5 percent of Louisville’s overall population.

“We cannot say that a child growing up in a neighborhood with conditions of concentrated poverty has the same chance of success as others,” said Stephen Reily, board chairman of the Greater Louisville Project, in the release. “And giving that child a better chance to succeed means addressing all of those conditions together. Improving education alone won’t matter if we can’t also improve access to jobs and health care.”

If Louisville brought those areas up to the city average, GLP said, “those four neighborhood areas would experience: 5,200 fewer low-income children, 7,200 additional bachelor’s degrees, 6,200 more employed people, $377 million in additional earnings, and eight extra years of life per resident.”

“We are hoping this report will spark conversations that will enable human-centered and neighborhood-focused interventions that encompass education and health and jobs and quality of place,” Reno-Weber said.

GLP poverty report.
GLP poverty report.

Disclosure: Stephen Reily is an investor in Insider Louisville.

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Mickey Meece
Mickey Meece is a native of Louisville, a Kentucky Colonel and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She worked at The New York Times for 13 years in various capacities on the business and features desk, including assistant to the editor, small business editor, weekend editor and staff editor. Mickey served as executive editor of USAA Magazine, the Money magazine for military families, and was an editor for the American Banker newspaper, where she reported on the credit card industry.