10|20|30 Formula to Fight Persistent Poverty

Issues: Economy and Jobs, Financial Services

In the United States, there are 485 counties where 20 percent or more of the population has been living below the poverty line for the last 30 years. These counties mired in persistent poverty are as diverse as our great nation; Appalachian communities in Kentucky and North Carolina, Native American communities in South Dakota and Alaska, Latino communities in Arizona and New Mexico and African American communities in Mississippi and South Carolina. They lack access to quality schools, affordable quality health care and adequate job opportunities.

This is not a partisan issue. In 2009, these counties were represented in Congress by 43 Democrats and 84 Republicans. Democrats represented 149 of them, with a total population of 8.8 million; Republicans 311, with a total population of 8.3 million; and 14, with a total population of 5.3 million, were split between Republicans and Democrats.

When we drafted the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, I fought to ensure that no communities were left behind by including a provision that directed at least 10 percent of Rural Development investments be made in persistent poverty communities, counties where 20 percent or more of the population had lived below the poverty line for the last 30 years.  This became known as the 10-20-30 formula.

I am urging Congress to include the 10-20-30 approach in future funding proposals and expand it to all federal agencies. It doesn’t require additional funding -- only the stipulation that at least ten percent of any agency’s appropriated programmatic funds be invested in persistent poverty communities. We are only as strong as our weakest link, and these communities must be included in our efforts to get the entire nation back on track.

I hope you will join me in this effort.


James E. Clyburn
Assistant Democratic Leader


Additional Materials:

  • Clyburn Policy Essay, "Developing the Will and the Way to Address Persistent Poverty In America" (Harvard Journal on Legislation, Winter 2014)