Brookings Institution: Poverty Has Moved to the Suburbs

Monday, 25 Mar 2013 12:25 PM

By Michael Kling

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Once perceived as the domains of the middle and upper class, the suburbs have a new resident — poverty, assert researchers at the Brookings Institution.

The suburbs now house more poor residents than do central cities and they house a third of the nation’s total poor population, according to Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube, authors of the forthcoming book, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.”

Infrastructure created over past decades, designed to combat urban poverty, no longer fits the problem, they argue.

Editor's Note: Startling Proof of the End of America’s Middle Class. Details in the Video

Suburban residents living in poverty grew to about 16.4 million people in 2011, an increase of almost 64 percent since 2000, according to Brookings Institution research. The increase was more than twice the growth rate of urban poverty.

Increasing suburban poverty has many causes, including job sprawl, shifts in affordable housing, population dynamics, immigration and a struggling economy, according to the researchers, who offer recommendations such as more and better transportation options, services and financial resources.

Western cities and Florida suburbs were among the first to see the Great Recession lead to significant increases in poverty between 2007 and 2008.

“I think we have an outdated perception of where poverty is and who it is affecting,” Kneebone told CNBC. “We tend to think of it as a very urban and a very rural phenomenon, but it is increasingly suburban.”

CNBC profiled Tara Simons, a single woman who moved to the suburb of West Hartford, Conn., for its quality of life and goods schools for her daughter. After a spell of unemployment, she found a job as a customer service representative earning $14 an hour.

She ended up behind on her utility bills, struggling with a payday loan and owing hundreds of dollars of credit card debt and $400 to her daughter’s lacrosse team. She and her daughter, now a high school freshman, moved to a cheaper apartment. Still, the $1,125 rent takes over half her take-home pay.

“I’m basically paying to say I live in West Hartford,” she told CNBC. “It is worth it.”
She said she intends to remain in the suburb

Editor's Note:
Startling Proof of the End of America’s Middle Class. Details in the Video

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