CNBC highlights a Brookings Institution report on the growth in suburban poverty in recent years:
The number of suburban residents living in poverty rose by nearly 64 percent between 2000 and 2011, to about 16.4 million people, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of 95 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. That’s more than double the rate of growth for urban poverty in those areas.
“I think we have an outdated perception of where poverty is and who it is affecting,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the research. “We tend to think of it as a very urban and a very rural phenomenon, but it is increasingly suburban.”
Simons’ situation is complicated by the fact she’s a single mom. Poverty and financial insecurity among single moms is far higher than for households headed by single dads or two parents.
The rate of poverty among single mothers actually improved dramatically through the 1990s, thanks to a strong economy, more favorable tax breaks and the success of so-called welfare-to-work programs. But two recessions and years of high unemployment erased many of those gains.
More and more suburbs now have residents with incomes near or below the poverty line. While suburbs have traditionally been thought of as wealthier places, this is not the case any more. One July 2012 report suggested the poverty rate in American suburbs could stay above 11% for a while. Similar factors that contribute to urban poverty are now also affecting the suburbs: a knowledge and service based economy that makes it difficult for those with less education; residential segregation where different races and classes live in more troubled communities. There are also unique issues contributing to poverty in the suburbs: the need for a car to get around and reach even low-paying jobs, a lack of affordable housing, and a lack of social services in communities that may not be used to providing such services.