Poverty is growing faster in the suburbs than anywhere else in the United States, soaring 64% over the past decade.
That was more than twice the growth rate of the urban poor population, according to the Brookings Institution, which released a book Monday titled Confronting Suburban Poverty in America. There are now almost 16.4 million suburban residents living below the poverty line, nearly 3 million more than in the cities.
The poverty line for a family of four was $23,021 in 2011, the latest Census figures available.
Low-income Americans have been moving to suburbs for many years, as wealthier Americans and companies relocated there. The poor were chasing the unskilled job opportunities that cropped up to cater to these people and businesses, said Elizabeth Kneebone, who co-authored the book.
"When people think of poverty in America, they tend to think of inner city neighborhoods or isolated rural communities," Kneebone said. "But today, suburbs are home to the largest and fastest growing poor population in the country."
During the 2000s, many poor people found work in the suburbs in construction, fueled by the housing boom in the first part of the decade, and in the services sector, working in restaurants and retail shops. Also, more impoverished immigrants increasingly moved directly to the suburbs over the past decade, joining predecessors who established communities outside of cities.
The Great Recession exacerbated the suburban poverty problem, as the construction industry cratered and many businesses closed, leaving low-wage workers without jobs. Also, the downturn forced formerly middle class families down the economic ladder into poverty.
The suburbs, however, are ill-equipped to deal with this burgeoning poor population, Kneebone said. There aren't as many social services agencies and they are often spread far and wide, making it difficult for those without cars to access. Most of the $82 billion spent by the federal government to combat poverty is directed to cities.
In the book, Kneebone and her co-author, Alan Berube, argue that the federal government needs to come up with new ways to tackle the problem of poverty in suburbia, which requires different tactics than its urban counterpart. In particular, assistance must address the fragmented nature of suburban populations and assistance organizations.
Mitt Romney is accusing President Obama of turning the clock back on welfare reform.
The Republican challenger Tuesday launched a new ad charging Obama with gutting the landmark 1996 welfare reform law that requires recipients to work to receive benefits. It's another step in Romney's strategy to paint Obama as the entitlement president.
"You wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job," says the ad, which begins with MORETami Luhby - Aug 8, 2012 8:34 AM ET
The poor are finding it even tougher to escape from the lowest income ranks these days.
Most of those in the poorest income quintile spent all or nearly all of the period between 1996 and 2006 stuck in place, according to a new report issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Those who did advance didn't move far.
The research, conducted by senior economist Katharine Bradbury, shows that economic mobility has MORETami Luhby - Apr 26, 2012 6:00 AM ET
Can you imagine living on less than $2 a day?
That's exactly what nearly 1.5 million American families have had to do.
The number of households living on $2 a day or less, per person, surged by 130% between 1996 and 2011, according to the National Poverty Center. They now constitute nearly one-fifth of the non-elderly households with children living in poverty.
Some 2.8 million children resided in these extremely poor households.
More than MORETami Luhby - Mar 7, 2012 11:59 AM ET
Extreme poverty in the developing world is on the decline, according to estimates released by the World Bank. And you can thank China's powerhouse economy for most of it.
Nearly 650 million people escaped extreme poverty -- living on less than $1.25 a day -- between 1981 and 2008, according to the World Bank's survey. That poverty line is the average for the world's poorest 10 to 20 countries.
The numbers have MORETami Luhby - Mar 1, 2012 5:54 PM ET
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