On Poverty's New Suburban Look

Author Scott Allard debunks lingering myths about how people experience poverty in cities. Poverty's suburbanization, he argues, has more to do with the loss of jobs than migration from "inner cities."

August 3, 2017, 8:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Arizona Suburb

Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock

Nowadays, poverty's suburban face challenges old notions of "inner cities" as repositories for the less fortunate. According to one narrative, Tanvi Misra writes, "As cities become more expensive, immigrants and communities of color have made a home for themselves outside the urban core—only to come face-to-face with the same issues they left behind."

In an interview, Scott Allard, author of Places in Need, complicates that picture. One of his findings: "When you break out the suburban regions, there are more poor people in the newer suburbs combined than in the older suburbs." At the same time, race doesn't define suburban poverty. "What you see is fairly consistent increases in poverty across race and ethnic groups in the suburbs. The increases among whites are large and substantial, as are increases among blacks and Hispanics."

While plenty of people are moving outward to escape newly expensive "inner cities," migration isn't suburban poverty's biggest driving force. According to Allard, "the most important factor is change in the labor market—the decline of the number of good-paying low-skilled jobs."

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