As Poverty Grows in the Suburbs, Businesses and Governments Confront New Challenges

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on July 31, 2013

Knowledge@Wharton: “When the suburban boom took off in the U.S. in the 1950s, many middle class families moved to those communities as a way to escape the country’s increasingly crowded, dirty and financially strapped cities. But now, as many American cities are gradually being revitalized and the suburbs have expanded outward, some of these former refuges for the middle class are becoming more and more like the places that early suburbanites were trying to escape. Fueled by the lure of cheap, aging housing stock and low-cost mortgages offered during the height of the housing boom, the rate of those living in suburban poverty has grown substantially over that last two decades. More than 15 million people currently live in poverty in the suburbs, compared with 12.8 million in the cities, according to a book released by the Brookings Institution in May. “Despite the fact that ‘poverty in America’ still conjures images of inner-city slums, the suburbanization of poverty has redrawn the contemporary American landscape,” authors Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube write in Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, noting that the number of poor suburbanites grew by 64% between 2000 and 2011.”

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