If you think of the typical American suburb as a refuge from the bustling city next door, you may want to think again. According to a new book from the Brookings Institution, the suburbs are changing and are becoming home to a larger number of poor people. The result: more poor people now are living in suburbs than in cities.
In “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” Brookings researchers found that 16.5 million poor people live in suburbs now versus 13 million in cities. The number of poor people in the suburbs has surged 67% between 2000 and 2010.
Brookings says structural shifts in the U.S. economy and two recessions helped shrink the American middle class, pushing more people into poverty.
“The economic tumult of the 2000s not only helped propel the size of America’s poor population to record levels but also contributed to its broadening geographic reach," write authors Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube.
The Daily Ticker’s Henry Blodget is not surprised. “With the top 1% having all of the income gains and everyone else basically losing ground it’s impossible that would not affect every part of the country," he says in the attached clip.
Blodget says growing poverty in the suburbs is “emblematic of a larger problem in this country, which is growing inequality.”
One in three Americans were poor or near poor in 2010 [defined by twice the poverty level of $23,550 for a family of four], according to Brookings. And that number will grow, "reaching deeper into the nation’s metropolitan regions," which include inner cities and suburbs, the authors write.
In the meantime, poor people in the suburbs are at disadvantage, says The Daily Ticker’s Aaron Task, because suburbs lack the services that many cities have.
But the Brookings report sees a somewhat silver lining.
“Suburbs offer in a way a ‘clean slate’ upon which to design a new and more effective approach to promoting opportunity...a place-based policy agenda and infrastructure …that has the potential to better alleviate poverty and increase access to opportunity throughout the country.”
That’s only true if there’s a political will to try it.
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