Poor fleeing city for suburbs, study shows
Bucking long-standing patterns in the United States, more poor people are living in the nation's suburbs than in urban areas, according to an analysis published on Monday.
As poverty mounted throughout the nation, the number of poor people in suburbs surged 67 percent between 2000 and 2011 — a much bigger jump than in cities, researchers for the Brookings Institution found. In suburbs, a smaller percentage of the population lives in poverty than in cities, but the sheer number of poor people scattered in the suburbs has jumped beyond that of cities.
The study defined poverty using the federal poverty line, which was $22,350 for a family of four in 2011.
Authors Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube cited a long list of reasons for the shift.
More poor people moved to the suburbs, pulled by more affordable housing or pushed by urban gentrification, the authors said. Some used the increased mobility of housing vouchers, which used to be restricted by area, to seek better schools and safer neighborhoods in suburbia. Still others, including immigrants, followed jobs as the booming suburbs demanded more workers, many for low-paying, service-sector jobs.
Change also came from within. More people in the suburbs slipped into poverty as manufacturing jobs disappeared, the authors found. The housing boom and bust walloped many homeowners on the outer ridges of metropolitan areas, hitting pocketbooks hard. On top of that, the growing numbers of poor people in the suburbs were driven, in part, by the exploding growth of the suburbs themselves.
The shift caught many communities by surprise, the authors found, with public and private agencies in suburbs unprepared to meet the need.
“The myth of suburban prosperity has been a stubborn one,” said Christopher Niedt, who as academic director of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University is familiar with the trend Brookings described. Even as suburban poverty emerged, “many poorer communities were so segregated from the wealthy in suburbs that many people were able to ignore it.”
As poverty has shifted to suburbs across the country, however, help has not always kept pace, Brookings researchers said. Many suburbs are thin on safety nets. Public transportation is often scant, making it harder for suburban poor to reach jobs and assistance.
While the number of poor people in suburban areas outstrips those in urban centers, the average suburb has a much smaller percentage of its people living in poverty — 12 percent — than the urban average of 22 percent.
Decades after the federal War on Poverty began, “it's hard to change course,” said Scott Allard, associate professor at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. “Just because there's rising poverty in suburbs doesn't mean there's less poverty in cities now.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Dog gone for 4 months found 3,000 miles from home
- FBI, federal marshals join manhunt for survivalist accused of ambushing troopers
- Strong rip currents kill 2 men in Ocean City
- Artificial sweeteners possible contributors to diabetes, obesity
- Benghazi panel strives to rise above politics
- 2 orbiters about to arrive at Mars to hunt for clues to climate change
- Damage assessed from wildfire in Weed, Calif.
- Again, Arizona looks to plentiful rain
- Flows from Hawaiian volcano being monitored
- ‘God’ made optional in Air Force oath
- Alaskans get dividend of nearly $1,900 from state’s oil wealth account