Poverty Rates Now Greater in Suburbs

Over the course of the last decade poverty rates in the suburbs have become greater than in cities across the United States. 

A new book from the Brookings Institution, called Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, brings to light something that many people do not realize; poverty has become a bigger issue in the suburbs of major cities than many of the cities themselves.

From 1970 to 200 poverty rates rose in both cities and suburban areas, but somewhere after the year 2000 the rates of suburban poverty eclipsed the number of poor in cities. In fact, between 200 and 2011 the number of suburban poor rose 64%, a rate that was double that of cities.


While it is important to note that there are roughly three times the number of people in suburban areas compared to people living in cities, this increase still represents a significant geographic shift. So what is contributing to this shift? The book and its authors Alan Berube and Elizabeth Kneebone outline several reasons:

  • Industries such as construction and manufacturing were concentrated in the suburbs when the recession hit and led to significant downsizing. 
  • Suburbs were particularly hard hit by the housing crisis.
  • Housing in the suburbs tends to be more affordable than in major cities, which has led many Americans who are poorer to relocate to the suburbs.
  • Suburbs have grown faster than urban areas, with many jobs in retail and hospitality relocating to these suburbs. As a result, many individuals employed in these areas have had to relocate to the suburbs.

While suburban poverty rates vary wildly from city to city, the influx of poverty in the suburbs could lead to many potential problems. Many suburbs do not have a public transit infrastructure that would allow the impoverished to reach job opportunities in other neighborhoods. In the past nonprofit organizations and government safety-net programs have been focused in large urban areas where the need has been the greatest; with more of the impoverished living in suburban areas it may be difficult to provide assistance due to the fact that these areas are so spread out.

Due to these findings it may be necessary to concentrate more charities and nonprofits in suburban areas to provide poverty assistance. Are there any nonprofits in your suburban area that are working to alleviate poverty? Please share them with us on our No More Poverty Facebook page so that we can help assist in their fight against poverty.

By Julian Omidi

Poverty in the Suburbs

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