Brookings Institution: Poverty Spreads to the Suburbs

Friday, 08 Aug 2014 08:15 AM

By Dan Weil

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When you think of poverty, you probably envision dilapidated building in inner cities.

But think again. A new study from the Brookings Institution shows that poverty is moving to the suburbs.

"The concentrated poverty rate remains highest in big cities, where almost one in four poor residents (23 percent) lived in a distressed neighborhood in 2008-2012, compared to 6.3 percent in suburbs," writes Brookings Fellow Elizabeth Kneebone, author of the report. However, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in concentrated poverty over this time period."

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The number of poor people residing in high-poverty urban neighborhoods climbed 21 percent to 5.9 million during the 2000s, according to the report. That number soared by 105 percent in the suburbs to 4.9 million.

"In some cases these [suburban] neighborhoods were last out [of poverty] in the 1990s," Kneebone told CNBC. "When the economy turned down, they were first to register those effects once again."

She concluded in her report, "The fact that so many of these neighborhoods and residents are located in suburbs only adds to the challenge and the need for urgency, because many of these communities are ill-equipped and unprepared to deal with the needs of a growing and increasingly concentrated low-income population."

The suburbs of Colorado Springs serve as an example of the problem. They now have seven census areas with 20 percent or more residents in poverty, up from zero in 2000, according to the report.

"We've seen this all over the state," Kathy Underhill of Hunger Free Colorado told Time.com. "But I think the American public has been slow to realize this transition from urban poverty to suburban poverty."

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