Thursday, December 07, 2006

Poverty follows families to the suburbs

Interesting story. Looking at the sub-title for this article the suburban poor outnumber the inner city poor. Wow!!!

I wonder if suburbanites are taking this like a slap in the face. Well this article from MSNBC doesn't talk about that. But they do have a little discussion of this phenomena. And it makes sense too.

I could point to gentrification that have people with money come back into the city instead of moving directly to the suburbs. Makes sense looking at how neighborhoods in say Chicago were blighted are turning around because of new developments. In the forms of condos to give one example.

But let's talk about this article. What points can be pulled up?

“Economies are regional now,” said Alan Berube, who co-wrote the report for the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “Where you see increases in city poverty, in almost every metropolitan area, you also see increases in suburban poverty.”

Nationally, the poverty rate leveled off last year at 12.6 percent after increasing every year since the decade began. It was a period when the country went through a recession and an uneven recovery that is still sputtering in parts of the Northeast and Midwest.

“Looking back at the 1970s, you would have seen cities suffering and suburbs staying the same,” said Berube, research director at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “But the story is different today.”

Berube said several factors are contributing to an increase in suburban poverty:

Suburbs are adding people much faster than cities, making it inevitable that the number of poor people living in suburbs would eventually surpass those living in cities.

The poverty rate in large cities (18.8 percent) is still higher than it is in the suburbs (9.4 percent). But the overall number of people living in poverty is higher in the suburbs in part because of population growth.

America’s suburbs are becoming more diverse, racially and economically. “There’s poverty really everywhere in metropolitan areas because there are low-wage jobs everywhere,” Berube said.

Recent immigrants are increasingly bypassing cities and moving directly to suburbs, especially in the South and West. Those immigrants, on average, have lower incomes than people born in the United States.

Berube and research analyst Elizabeth Kneebone studied poverty figures for the 100 largest metropolitan areas, measuring changes from 1999 to 2005, the most recent data available.

In 1999, the number of poor people living in cities and suburbs was roughly even, at about 10.3 million apiece, according to the report. Last year, the suburban poor outnumbered their urban counterparts by about 1.2 million.

“Traditionally, cities have been viewed as home to poor populations, surrounded by middle- and upper-income suburbs,” the report said. “This ’tipping’ of poor populations to the suburbs represents a signal development that upends historical notions about who lives in cities and suburbs.”

Well all things are cyclical. In a few years no one will want to live in the city but go back to the suburbs. And probably a few years after that people will want to live in the city again. It'll always wax and wane.

The next thing is this...

“I hope this says to people that the way to confront poverty is not to wall it off and concentrate it,” [National Urban League President Marc] Morial said. “You really need policies to eliminate it.”

I honestly like ths quote he's right about the first part, I just don't think he's right about the next part. I hate to be an pessimist but I'm not sure that poverty can be eliminated. And really the idea is nice to live in a world like Star Trek where in that future there is no poverty and that the economy operates differently in the 24th Century than it does today. I just don't see how it'll be done.

All I can say is that time will tell. It's easy to give some simple solution without really thinking it through but it's probably interesting to look at these stories and come up with ideas to look at poverty. The question is what should be done?

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