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Suburban Poverty? So What? | Congress for the New Urbanism

Suburban Poverty? So What?

MLewyn's picture

Because of the release of a new book about the growth of poverty in the suburbs,  there has been all sorts of chatter on Twitter and the urbanist blogosphere about the growth of suburban poverty.  Obviously, poverty anywhere is not a good thing.  But as long as there is poverty, is it such a terrible thing that some poor people now live in suburbs?

Not necessarily.  In the 20th century, when poverty was more concentrated in the cities than it is now, some people argued that this was really bad because poor suburbanites were isolated from suburban tax bases and suburban jobs.  Why is this argument any less persuasive now than it was in 1975?

Moreover, I'm not sure conditions have changed that much.  I don't have the data at my fingertips, but I strongly suspect that urban poverty rates are still far higher than suburban poverty rates; all that has happened is that the city/suburb gap has narrowed slightly.  For example, even hyper-gentrified San Francisco has a poverty rate slightly higher than its metro area (12.5% for the city, 10.9% for the region). *

*Data on city and metro poverty rates can be found here

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