The number of poor people living in suburban areas in the United Stated is increasing rapidly compared with the population of impoverished people living in the cities, according to a recent study released by Brookings Institution.

Suburban Areas

Researchers found that the number of people living in the suburban areas in the country surged by 67 percent from 2000 to 2011 as poverty increased across the United States over the past decade. The book, entitled Confronting Suburban Poverty in America was written by Elizabeth Kneebone, fellow, and Alan Berube, senior fellow and deputy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program of the research firm.

According to the authors, “Poverty is no longer just an urban and rural problem but increasingly a suburban one as well.” They cited that President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty almost half a century ago, and middle and upper class families who did not want to raise their kids in the cities lived in the suburbs back in the 1960s. Today, the situation is no longer the same.

Movement of People to Suburban Areas

Berube and Kneebone noted that more poor people moved to suburban areas over the past decades. Suburban areas are now absorbing more than one third of the total poor population in the country. The infrastructures developed over the past decades to resolve poverty are no longer effective in this fast changing geography. The authors emphasized, “The solution no longer fits the problem.”

In their book, Berube and Kneebone listed different reasons behind the change, including more affordable homes and urban gentrification. Many people are also looking for better schools and safer neighborhoods. Some immigrants relocate to suburban areas because of the availability of sector-service jobs.

The authors also noted that many people living in suburbs become part of the population of those in the poverty line because of the disappearance of manufacturing jobs. The recent financial crisis also hit many people.

Berube and Kneebone cited that the current poverty situation in the country raises overwhelming challenges including the need for better and more transportation options, services, and financial resources. According to them, these necessities also provide an opportunity to evaluate and modernize services, structures, and procedures to effectively reflect and address new demands.

A related report from the Los Angeles Times quoted Christopher Niedt, academic director of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. He said, “The myth of suburban prosperity has been a stubborn one.”  He added that even if poverty emerged in the suburbs, “many poorer communities were so segregated from wealthy in suburbs that many people were able to ignore it.”

Based on the analysis of the Brookings Institution of the U.S. Census Data, Irvine, California is the fastest growing city with poor people. Over a decade the number of poor people living in the area increased from 12,400 to 21,000. Hundreds of families seek help every month at the Families Forward offices, a non-profit organization in Irvine. The organization is now providing bags of groceries to 160 families per week, up from 25 families before.

Margie Wakeham, executive director of Families Forward said,  “Everything is nicely maintained. [referring to Irvine and Orange County suburbs]. Things look good on the surface, but the need has just skyrocketed.”