I first wrote about the rising suburban ghetto and mounting suburban decay in 2011. It interests me because as a kid growing up in the 1970s, suburban living was still the ideal. Beginning in the early 1990s, however, I began to witness a shift back to the urban core in Oklahoma City. By 2000, I was witnessing the decline of suburban neighborhoods that had thrived just a decade earlier.
Today, a person is more likely to live in poverty living in the suburbs. There are 16.5 million people living below the poverty line in American Suburbia. Just 13.5 million people live under the poverty line in urban cities.
Poverty in the suburbs is rapidly increasing. It’s increased 139 percent since 2000 vs. 50 percent in urban areas. See the federal poverty guidelines in the infographic below.
From 1910 to 1998, suburban population increased to 52 percent of the population. The turn of the century saw young professionals (Generation X) and empty nesters (Baby Boomers) flocking back to cities while lower earners found cheap rent in the suburbs. Many of those low earners were recent college graduates (Generation Y), who have suffered high rates of unemployment. Despite what you’ve heard, millennials are not flocking to the urban core — at least not to live. They can’t afford the cost of housing.
During the Great Recession that began in 2008, the net worth of middle class America plummeted. Adjusted household income declined and average household worth dropped from $87,9992 to an astonishing $56,335.
Poverty in the Suburbs is Tougher Than Poverty in Cities
Unlike cities, suburbs don’t have long-established support nets such as job training sites, computer labs, community health care services, food pantries and more.
The above infographic says “the face of poverty is changing…” but that is only partly true. It’s changing in that it now includes many more college graduates than ever before, but beyond that, the face of poverty has not changed. It’s the same as it has always been — it’s just living somewhere else. And, now, all the problems associated with poverty that have long-faced cities, have an expanded footprint marching through America’s suburbs and bedroom communities.