Now suburbia is where the poor are

Poverty there has surged by 64% since 2000, and the largest population of low-income people is no longer urban.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 25, 2013 2:10PM

Image: Suburban neighborhood © VisionsofAmerica, Joe Sohm, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesUpdated 4:50 p.m. ET.

The image of suburbia as a land of plenty, offering refuge to families fleeing urban poverty, may be about as outmoded as a wood-panel station wagon. 

That's because poverty has moved to the suburbs. The number of suburban residents living in poverty jumped by almost 64% from 2000 to 2011, which means about 16.4 million suburban residents now struggle with low incomes, Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, told MSN moneyNOW. Her research will be published in May in a book called "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America."

That means suburbia is now home to more poor people than cities, which house 13.4 million people living in poverty, according to the institute's study of 95 U.S. metropolitan areas. 

"To effectively address the challenges, it's important to know where the poor live, and we have outdated perceptions" of where poverty strikes home, Kneebone said. 

One suburban family struggling with poverty was profiled by NBC News, which on Friday documented the trend of growing impoverishment in suburbia. The family, headed by single mother Tara Simons, moved to suburbia in search of good schools, but after she quit her job, she struggled to find new employment and has fallen into debt.


The spread of poverty was spurred by the two economic downturns during the past decade, starting with the early-2000 recession and made worse by the 2007-2009 Great Recession. The poverty rate in America is at about its highest level in almost two decades, with roughly 15% of the country falling under the threshold.

"Lower-income individuals are moving to the suburbs, finding work" in decentralized and lower-wage jobs, Kneebone said. But long-term suburbanites "are slipping down the economic ladder."

Low-wage jobs have accounted for the biggest share of new positions since the Great Recession, with a poll earlier this month finding that workers making $35,000 or less are unsure whether they'll ever find advancement.

The jump in suburban poor is putting more pressure on those communities, especially if the towns are without the infrastructure to provide necessary support systems. "The safety net is much patchier than in urban areas that may have been building up these resources over decades," Kneebone notes. 

But suburbia isn't alone in seeing more poor residents, she adds. The number of poor people in cities rose by 29% during the same period -- a smaller pace than in suburbia but still significant. 

"It's growing fastest in suburbia, but it's not like another community type is doing so much better," Kneebone notes. 

Overall, about 48.9 million Americans live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A family of four earning less than about $22,800 would qualify for that designation. 

More on moneyNOW

Mar 25, 2013 2:55PM
If this "recovery" continues like it is going, we'll all be in poverty.... Except for the Washington elite of course!
Mar 25, 2013 3:32PM
Stop patronizing big corporations that overpay their CEO's and underpay everyone else. Vote with your dollar. It's much more powerful than voting in any election these days.
Mar 25, 2013 2:57PM
Doesn't help that back in 2000 people were approved for home loans they couldn't afford. I would imagine that bubble affected this situation..............
Mar 25, 2013 3:16PM
The transfer of wealth is almost complete.  The stock market needs to crash, we need to get our money out of the big banks, Wells, BA, Citi, etc.  It is time for the middle class to start thinking locally.  If we all do this, the new global economy will collapse and we might get some of our money back.  Please people, say no to wal-mart, mcds, big banks, big insurance companies, and learn to invest your money on your own.  This will go a long way to tell them we will not buy their junk anymore.
Mar 25, 2013 3:48PM
More evidence of trickle down economics in action. We have been on this path since about 1980, and the course has not changed: More income and wealth going to the top, and less to everyone else.
Mar 25, 2013 4:17PM

Obama said these cuts wouldnt effect anyone in the 75k to 200k area, How can this be? He said no new taxs! How can this be? Could it be........he lied? Noooo he`s a politician he wouldnt do that. You gullible sheep.

Mar 25, 2013 3:48PM
Mar 25, 2013 4:06PM
Sure would like to know what they are calling poor???? I live in the suburbs and I think I am the only one without a smart phone!!! And I am not poor at all, just don't need a smart phone!!! Or a flat screen TV!!!
Mar 25, 2013 4:31PM
The revolution is on the horizon. It is not going to be a pleasant place in the US when the sleeping giant wakes up and figures out that their American dream has been someone else's. No wonder the government wants your guns and the DHS is arming themselves to the teeth? It will be like Russia in 1905.
Mar 25, 2013 3:45PM
The ultra rich continue to stockpile money and gold so that they will be first in line for all privileges when the American economic house of cards does fall.  That HOC has been propped up by Bernanke's unlimited currency printing for all of his QE's, much of which has been loaned at almost zero interest to Big Business and Wall Street and invested overseas so that it will be less affected by a USA economic collapse.

And, who owns those big businesses?......... the ultra rich, of course. And, if America by some chance does survive the gross exploitation by those who should care about it but don't, Bernanke has secured for himself a huge money, no-show :consultancy "job" on Wall Street into perpetuity for all he has done to enrich it at the poverty-making expense of the rest of us.

How did we allow crooks to take over America?
Mar 25, 2013 3:37PM
NEVADA LUKE has drunk the Kool Aid.  He actually believes the Obama propaganda that we are  experiencing a real recovery.  Cut him some slack folks, after all, he's ignorant and happy
Mar 25, 2013 3:44PM
""Lower-income individuals are moving to the suburbs, finding work" in decentralized and lower-wage jobs,"  AND CHEAPER living spaces/rents when you can't get the job in the city.  The way American trades/jobs trend today, soon the city will be only for the fortunate and the suburbs are for the poor.
Mar 25, 2013 3:46PM
Well it looks like the redistribution of the wealth is working!  GOOD JOB OSAMA OBAMA!  Hey everyone how is that hopeless change working for you now!  The Democratic Socialist party is lower America to third world status in the short space of less that 5 years.  It took Lenin and the gang a whole lot longer.  Hey that just shows we are undereducated and lazy. 
Mar 25, 2013 3:23PM
Nevada Luke must be on the goverment  "give me my share list or anything else I can get someone else to pay for"
Mar 25, 2013 3:55PM
No cell phone, no TV, no car?  I don't believe it. over 90% of Americans have all three. Some poverity
Mar 25, 2013 4:04PM
no surprise here Aimee when technology replaces human employees and when corp bonuses are the main point of  biz, this is THE RESULT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mar 25, 2013 5:00PM
The poverty level surged 64 percent! Sure! everything costs more than ever before. The bath tissue is now more than a half inch narrower than the old tissue rolls and  of course jumped up 20 percent  in price  or more, All the canned goods were reduced in size and had large price increases, like tuna- eight oz to six oz, and everything else. The utilities went up even as we use the electric light saving bulbs which are more than ten times the price of the incandescent bulbs. Oil and gasoline are up . Everything went up except jobs and salaries
Mar 25, 2013 4:18PM

Proof positive of how Obama really helps the middle class


Mar 25, 2013 3:58PM
Mar 25, 2013 4:29PM
The crime rate of urban America will follow.
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