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Part of the appeal of the suburbs is what they represent: Once you’ve made it out there, the thinking goes, you’ve achieved financial security. But what happens when this is no longer true?A recent study by the Brookings Institute reveals that from 2000 to 2010, the number of poor in major-metro suburbs grew 53%, compared to 23% in cities.
Some of the worst increases came outside of Southern and Midwestern cities like Austin, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee. Other majors spikes were seen in the Sun Belt due to major housing-market collapses, and in Western regions like Oklahoma City, Salt Lake Springs, and Seattle, where the increase in suburban poverty versus urban poverty was even more drastic than elsewhere.
The “suburban poor” is a mix of lower-income individuals who moved out to the suburbs for since-vanished jobs in retail and construction as well as formerly middle-class families who are now without sufficient income. According to Brookings:
A combination of factors including overall population growth, job decentralization, ageing of housing, immigration, region-wide economic decline, and policies to promote mobility of low-income households led increasing shares of the poor to inhabit suburbs over the decade.
In a story about the data, CNN Money describes “folks … with the house, car and white picket fence” now going to food banks and either struggling — whether out of shame or ignorance — to take advantage of nonprofit aid.
And while the percentage of cities under the poverty line, which stands around 20.9%, is still lower than the 11.4% rate in the suburbs, the American poor living in suburbs and rural areas now outnumber those residing in cities.
The reality is that the suburbs are no longer idyllic capsules of the American Dream, and haven’t been for years. As CNN Money points out, this misconception causes people to mistakenly concentrate their charity to cities when now, suburban residents need it just as much.
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