The Growth of Suburban Poverty

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Poverty is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States. Much of the U.S. population is struggling, even while fighting for access to government programs and other resources. Economic changes have greatly affected poor and lower-income Americans, causing poverty to move from cities to the suburbs. As this trend continues, new avenues of economic assistance need to be explored to mitigate poverty’s growing prevalence.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Ohio University’s Online Masters in Public Administration.

The Growth of Suburban Poverty infographic

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Poverty in the United States

The recent increase of people in the United States who are living in poverty is not dominated by any single demographic. It is impacting people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Poverty Guidelines Based on Household Income Outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services for 2017

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ updated guidelines for 2017, an individual who earns less than $12,060 in 2017 is living below the federal poverty level. Likewise, a two-person household earning less than $16,240, a three-person household earning less than $20,420, a four-person household earning less than $24,600 and a five-person household earning less than $28,780 are also living below the federal poverty level.

The State of Poverty in the United States in 2015 According to the U.S. Census Bureau

Approximately 43.1 million people, or 13.5 percent of the U.S population, were living in poverty in 2015, and this figure includes 14.5 million minors and 4.2 million seniors. According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure, the number of Americans living in poverty has further increased to 45.7 million people in 2016.

Analysis of People in Poverty

Approximately 32 percent of non-working adults are living in poverty. In comparison, only 2 percent of full-time working adults are living below the federal poverty level.

An estimated 31 percent of adults lacking a high-school diploma are in poverty, compared to 5 percent of adults who have graduated from college.

And among single parents and married couples with or without children, single mothers are the most likely to be in poverty, with 28 percent living below the poverty level. Approximately 15 percent of single fathers and 5 percent of married couples are living in poverty as well.

Poverty Is Moving to the Suburbs

Poverty in the United States has made a surprising and dramatic shift. While poverty used to be more prevalent in cities, more people below the poverty line are now living in the suburbs. In 2015, there were 16.5 million people living below the federal poverty level in suburban neighborhoods, whereas 13.5 million were living below the poverty level in urban neighborhoods.

The Number of Poor People Has Risen

While suburban neighborhoods have seen the biggest increase in people in poverty, the number of poor people has steadily risen throughout the United States in the past two decades.

There have been 65 percent more poor people in the suburbs and 32.5 percent more poor people in cities since 2003. And since 2000, the suburbs have seen a 139 percent increase in the number of poor people, and cities have seen a 50 percent increase.

Where Suburban Poverty Has Increased From 2000 to 2012

Even though poverty has become more prevalent all across the United States, several cities have been seeing an exponential increase in the number of suburban residents living in poverty.

Atlanta, Georgia, has seen an especially high increase in suburban poverty, with the percentage of residents in poverty rising by 159 percent from 2000 to 2012. Other cities with large increases in suburban poverty levels during this time period include Fresno, California; Jackson, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee.

What Is Fueling This Increase in Suburban Poverty?

Numerous factors related to economic changes are contributing to the rise of poverty in the suburbs. Federal, state and local programs need to adjust their agendas to fight this problem as more people outside cities are living in poverty.

Reasons for Suburban Poverty Growth

During the U.S. recession in 2007, jobs were lost, foreclosure rates increased and a large number of suburban residents lost their homes after the housing bubble burst.

Programs designed to help those living in poverty are usually concentrated in metropolitan areas, making these programs less accessible for suburban populations.

As an effect of gentrification, residents moved from cities to more affordable suburban neighborhoods after being pushed out of increasingly expensive urban neighborhoods.

While more jobs are located in the suburbs, incomes have not increased with the cost of living. The median household income in these areas has actually decreased from $56,122 in 2005 to $55,775 in 2015.

What Is Needed to Fight Suburban Poverty?

Poverty in the suburbs is a multifaceted problem. A varied approach which includes increased scale, funding and collaboration with existing poverty assistance programs is needed to find a solution.

Considering better-suited locations for services such as affordable housing, credit services, homeless shelters, and land banks could also help lessen the effects of suburban poverty.

There are also many existing programs focused on fighting suburban poverty, including CommonBond Communities, the Housing Partnership Equity Trust, the MET Center, the Mortgage Resolution Fund and the Road Map Project.

As poverty in the United States has shifted into suburban areas, there is a growing need for programs to move into neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest. Read this comprehensive infographic to learn more about what is causing suburban poverty and how to fight it.

Learn More

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