The suburbs are now home to a greater share of America's poor than inner cities, according to a report released January 20 by the Brookings Institution.
Suburban poverty has been increasing at a faster rate than poverty in inner cities in recent years partly because the economic downturn has hit all segments of society and more people live in the suburbs. Nationally, midwestern cities and suburbs have been hardest hit, particularly areas that are heavily dependant upon auto manufacturing.
According to the report:
In 2000, the greatest share of the poor lived in the primary cities of the country’s largest metro areas. These cities were home to almost 400,000 more poor than their suburbs, and the balance of the poor population was more likely to live in non-metropolitan communities than small metro areas. However, growth rates well above average in the suburban and small metro area poor populations have re-drawn the map over the course of the decade.
Most notably, by 2008 a plurality of the nation’s poor lived in large metropolitan suburbs. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of these suburban poor increased by 25 percent—10 points above the national average and close to 5 times the growth rate for the poor in primary cities.
The report has interesting implications for federal urban policy. Overall, the Obama administration has stressed the importance of a metro-wide approach to urban policy, particularly in the areas of jobs and the environment. Place-based policies like Promise Neighborhoods, which focus on areas of concentrated poverty, are an adjunct to that.
To the extent that place-based policies put jobs (cradle-to-career) on an equal footing with education (cradle-to-college), integration into a broader metro-wide policy becomes more important. In theory, each of these areas are being addressed by the Obama administration's White House interagency urban policy working group.