December 21, 2006

Poverty in the Suburbs

Every so often I read boring reports. Here's one, from the Brookings Institution: "City and Suburban Poverty Trends, 1999-2005." Mmmm... eye-glazing... But this is sort of interesting: In 1999 there was roughly the same number of poor people in cities as in the suburbs. But by 2005, the suburban poor outnumbered the urban poor by over 1 million.

What's going on here? The report hints that the dismal wage growth in the United States has hit lower-skilled workers in the suburbs especially hard. Alternatively, poor families may be migrating from the inner city to the suburbs. That's where the jobs seem to be, after all—a few years ago, GAO study found that while three-fourths of all welfare recipients lived in central cities or rural areas, three-fourths of all jobs were located in the suburbs of over 100 metro areas. Who wouldn't move if they could?

The Brookings report notes one troubling aspect of all this: Most social service providers are still disproportionately located in the inner cities, despite the fact that most poor people now live in the suburbs. Immigrants living in lower-density suburban areas, for instance, are less likely to receive the Earned-Income Tax Credit than those living in cities—I assume because they're less likely to hear about it. I don't know. In other news, since 1999 "nearly half of large cities nationwide saw a significant rise in their poverty rates." Good to see that progress is being made.
-- Brad Plumer 6:33 PM || ||