Society

Poverty Rate Exploding in American Suburbs

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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Poverty in the U.S. is growing more rapidly in suburban areas than urban or rural areas.

Now there are nearly 16.4 million suburban residents living below the poverty line, according to independent research nonprofit The Brookings Institution. According to the 2012 census, the poverty line for a family of four is $23,681.

The Brookings Institution, which released a book Monday called Confronting Suburban Poverty in American, reported that poverty in suburbia is twice the rate of urban populations. Suburbia has three million more poverty-stricken individuals than cities.

"When people think of poverty in America, they tend to think of inner city neighborhoods or isolated rural communities," said Elizabeth Kneebone, who co-authored of the book with Alan Berube. "But today, suburbs are home to the largest and fastest growing poor population in the country."

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The Great Recession, the housing bust, urban gentrification and loss of manufacturing work all contributed to the skyrocketing rate of suburban poverty.

Many people move to the suburbs looking for the lower cost of housing, better or safer schools, or simply to follow the demand for low-wage, service-sector work.

Drawn to the suburbs in the 2000s when housing was booming and finding work in the construction and services industry was easy, many landed on their faces when the housing bubble burst and unemployment rose. Impoverished immigrants, low-wage workers and many formerly middle-class families suffered.

The majority of federal spending, the $82 billion used to combat poverty, is pumped into urban, metropolitan areas. According to Kneebone, the suburbs are not prepared to accommodate the rising poor population. Social services are far flung and many do not have cars to access them.

Kneebone and Berube argue in their book that the government must learn to tackle poverty in the suburbs by taking into consideration the fragmented landscape.

"This isn't about shifting resources away from the cities," Kneebone said. "But it underscores the need to think differently."

Sources: CNN Money, Newser, LA Times