A new study from the Brookings Institution shows that poverty in American suburbs increased by 64 percent over the last decade, more than twice the rate of poverty growth in cities. In the New York/tristate metro area alone, the number of suburban poor grew 28 percent since 2000, while the number of poor in the city grew 2 percent.
Alan Berube, one of the authors of the report, says that while the city becomes more expensive and popular, low wage economies are increasingly found outside them. The recession coupled with population growth in the suburbs contributed to the explosion of poverty there. “And in the end,” he adds, “Where poverty is–is where affordable housing is.”
Still, the study doesn’t really support the conclusion that gentrification is ruining everything, that “reverse white flight” is displacing low-income communities and exporting them to places like Ossining or New Rochelle. The report looked at Census data across the last decade, but Berube says that the study didn’t examine who was displacing whom–and much of the population growth in the suburbs came from new immigrants, from those who didn’t stop in the city first.
“Poverty is a structural feature of the American economy today,” Berube says, while noting that the disparity between rich and poor in the city is as stark as ever. But if disasters like Sandy are an example, the Brookings data could also support the idea that cities are awful at fostering opportunities for low-income communities to find affordable housing–which is why it may be easier for those living under the federal poverty line to survive in the ‘burbs after all.