About a month ago, I wrote about the increasingly suburban face of poverty. In that post, I noted that poverty is still higher in urban areas than suburban areas, but I quoted the following from the Brookings Institution:
From 2000 to 2010, the number of poor individuals in major-metro suburbs grew 53 percent, compared to 23 percent in cities. In 16 metro areas, including Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee, the suburban poor population more than doubled during that time. The recession merely served to accelerate the trend, as suburbs added 3.4 million poor from 2007 to 2010â€”1.4 million more poor individuals than cities.
An article in today’s NYT — Outside Cleveland, Snapshots of Povertyâ€™s Surge in the Suburbs — looks at the challenges created by the surge in poverty in suburbs generally. From the piece:
As a result, suburban municipalities â€” once concerned with policing, putting out fires and repairing roads â€” are confronting a new set of issues, namely how to help poor residents without the array of social programs that cities have, and how to get those residents to services without public transportation. Many suburbs are facing these challenges with the tightest budgets in years.
â€œThe whole political class is just getting the memo that Ozzie and Harriet donâ€™t live here anymore,â€ 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. â€œThe suburbs were always a place of opportunity â€” a better school, a bigger house, a better job,â€ said Scott Allard, an associate professor at the University of Chicago who focuses on social welfare policy and poverty. â€œToday, thatâ€™s not as true as the popular mythology would have us believe.â€
Perhaps a stronger economic recovery — which may or may not be offing — will undo some of this recent trend. But it seems more likely that the trends will get worse as local governments continue to cut services, as transportation costs take an even bigger bite out of incomes, and as whole neighborhoods built more or less as once face major infrastructure issues.