Poor in the suburbs: a growing plurality in the United States

After a headline earlier this week about a “suburban depression,” more data shows the suburbs contain a growing plurality of the poor in the United States:

Significantly, the 2000s also marked a turning point in the geography of American poverty. The 2010 data confirm that poor populations continued their decade-long shift toward suburban areas. From 2000 to 2010, the number of poor people in major-metro suburbs grew 53 percent (5.3 million people), compared to 23 percent in cities (2.4 million people). By 2010, suburbs were home to one-third of the nation’s poor population—outranking cities (27.5 percent), small metro areas (20.5 percent), and non-metropolitan communities (18.7 percent)…

The magnitude and pace of growth in the suburban poor population over the past decade caught many communities unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the growing need. In many suburbs, the safety net is patchy and stretched thin to begin with. The suburban social services infrastructure is not as developed or robust as in urban centers with a longer track record of addressing the challenges of poverty, nor is it as funded. And as governments continue to tighten their belts and philanthropic resources dwindle, safety net service providers are increasingly asked to do much more with significantly less.

There is also an interesting map showing the differing rates of growth in the suburban poor population across major metropolitan regions in the United States.

What’s the long-term solution to this? From what politicians seem to be suggesting, middle-class suburbanites need help keeping/buying a home, middle-class tax breaks, and good jobs. How exactly can the typical suburban communities provide services in this era of economic crisis? I wonder how much politicians and suburban communities are willing to truly deal with this or whether the ones that can afford to (or think they will afford to) will act like the issue doesn’t really exist and can’t be allowed to threaten the image of prosperous suburbs.

0 thoughts on “Poor in the suburbs: a growing plurality in the United States

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