Thursday, January 21, 2010

Movin' on Down to the East Side

It's a bit of a challenge these days for me to find time to keep up with general news circulating around the Internet but I have noticed some references to a new report released by the Brookings Institute that I think are worthwhile noting here. We'll take a break from the Haiti earthquake coverage here for a moment and spend some time on this topic.

"The Suburbanization of Poverty: Trends in Metropolitan America, 2000 to 2008" highlights trends that  I hope a lot of folks (community development professionals, social service providers, planners, politicians, etc.) have already had a suspicion of or are paying attention to today. If 1/3 of all poor people in the United States live in the suburbs of large metro areas as this report indicates then we need to make sure that our fellow citizens that fall in this category have sufficient access to the things they need to help them break the poverty cycle regardless of where they live. That means they need low-cost but extensive transportation networks, multiple health care facility options, and access to jobs that pay decent wages. I can't help but think that one of a number of factors at play in these shifting trends was the large availability of affordable housing in the suburbs that the nation cranked out in the '90's.

One of the authors of the report (Elizabeth Kneebone) had this to say in regards to how the current recession has affected these trends:

The first year of the recession has already translated into significant poverty increases nationally, with suburbs once again showing the fastest growth rate in the number of poor. Looking at the unemployment numbers for 2009, we can expect even greater poverty increases to materialize in metro areas across the board. We have also seen unemployment grow at a faster pace in suburbs than cities over this time period, and more suburbanized industries—like real estate, retail, construction, and manufacturing—have borne some of the greatest job losses during the downturn. Taken together, these factors suggest that the trend of suburbanizing poverty is likely only to continue, if not accelerate, in coming years.

Other folks have put forth some good observation on this research so I will stop here for now and recommend that you check out their sage commentary:

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