The New York Times reports on the growing population of the poor in the American suburbs:
The increase in the suburbs was 53 percent, compared with 26 percent in cities. The recession accelerated the pace: two-thirds of the new suburban poor were added from 2007 to 2010…
“The whole political class is just getting the memo that Ozzie and Harriet don’t live here anymore,” said Edward Hill, dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.
This shift has helped redefine the image of the suburbs. “The suburbs were always a place of opportunity — a better school, a bigger house, a better job,” said Scott Allard, an associate professor at the University of Chicago who focuses on social welfare policy and poverty. “Today, that’s not as true as the popular mythology would have us believe.”
Since 2000, the poverty roll has increased by five million in the suburbs, with large rises in metropolitan areas as different as Colorado Springs and Greensboro, N.C.
While these are interesting figures (and I’ve noted them before here and here – the original report from September is a month ahead of this Times piece), arguably the suburbs have never completely fit the Ozzie and Harriet image. While many suburban places were retreats for wealthy and middle-class whites, there have also been working-class suburbs and some non-white suburbs. There is indeed a “popular mythology” – but I wonder if suburban critics have also been interested in pushing this image.
A few other thoughts:
1. Do most Americans today even know the show Ozzie and Harriet? In its time, the show had a long run: 402 radio episodes (1944-1954), 435 television episodes (1952-1966). Even with a lot of episodes, this show seems to have been syndicated less than some other shows.
2. If a greater percentage of the poor in metropolitan areas are now in suburbs, is this considered a positive thing for big cities?
3. Do we have any data on what happens to the poor in suburbs – do they have higher levels of social mobility than the poor in the city or rural areas? Additionally, the article suggests jobs and housing have helped increase the suburban poor population but what is the exact data on this?