Spotlight Exclusives

Suburban Poverty on the Rise

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A new report from the Brookings Institution turns the image of white picket fence suburbia on its head. Between 2000 and 2008, as the country experienced two recessions, the number of suburban individuals living in poverty rose almost five times as fast as the urban poor population. The result was that by 2008 the suburbs were home to the largest share of poor people in the nation. Given the impact of the current recession on suburbanized industries, suburban families are likely suffering even more today.

For many of us, the notion of poverty still conjures up images of those struggling in downtrodden inner city neighborhoods or rural families living in geographic isolation, unable to access adequate support services. Certainly many of these perceptions are rooted in truth. According to the 2008 Census Bureau data, 17.7 percent of metropolitan residents and 15.1 percent of rural Americans live in poverty.

But the Brookings research, authored by senior Brookings fellow and former Spotlight contributor Elizabeth Kneebone, shows that to fully address poverty in America, we need to broaden both our perceptions and public policy objectives beyond the more traditional focus on urban and rural poverty.

Lawmakers must understand the shifting local geography of poverty to effectively provide services and social programs. Officials and providers have to ensure that critical programs and job training services are accessible to struggling suburban families. Understanding the reality of suburban life for low-income families is an important step in reducing poverty and providing help to those that need it most.

Posted by Helina


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