Poverty Moves to the Suburbs
July 23, 2013
Jul 23, 2013
1 Min read time
This week The Economist features a piece that details the intensifying economic problems of America’s suburbs, now home to the country’s “biggest and fastest-growing poor population.” The story concerns a seemingly paradoxical reality: the suburbs are becoming poorer even as they attract more jobs. Between 2000 and 2010, America’s hundred largest cities lost 10.4 percent of their jobs, while the suburbs saw a 1.2 percent bump; during that same period, the number of people living below the poverty line grew 53 percent in the suburbs and 23 percent in cities. Poor suburbanites now outnumber the urban poor by roughly 2.5 million, and suburban safety nets are thin.
Back in 2008—before the crash— Mike Gecan foretold this decline in a BR piece that warned of “America’s midlife crisis” by looking at the challenges faced by Illinois’ DuPage County. DuPage, at a glance, is a model of American prosperity. Home to the corporate headquarters of McDonald’s, Office Max, Sara Lee, and a handful of other Fortune 500 companies, it had one of the highest median incomes in the nation. A closer look, though, revealed that DuPage County was essentially tapped out, with no more land left for developers and cripplingly expensive municipal services. The high real estate taxes that allowed DuPage to give breaks to commercial ‘job creators’ could no longer support the growth they catalyzed. When the county brought in Gecan as a consultant, it was threatening to cut much of its aid to veterans, homeowners, and the sick. DuPage hadn’t prepared for a budget crisis, Gecan explains, because “budget crises are not supposed to happen in places like west suburban DuPage.”
"DuPage is not alone, of course. In Nassau and Suffolk Counties in New York, in Montgomery and Baltimore Counties in Maryland, in Bergen and Essex and Middlesex Counties in New Jersey, in almost every mature suburb in the northeast and Midwest and mid south, families face these same conditions. . . . No longer young, no longer trendy, no longer the place to be, no longer without apparent limitations or constraints,” Gecan writes, "these places, like people, have developed ways of avoiding reality.”
While we have you...
...we need your help. You might have noticed the absence of paywalls at Boston Review. We are committed to staying free for all our readers. Now we are going one step further to become completely ad-free. This means you will always be able to read us without roadblocks or barriers to entry. It also means that we count on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, help us keep it free for everyone by making a donation. No amount is too small. You will be helping us cultivate a public sphere that honors pluralism of thought for a diverse and discerning public.
July 23, 2013
1 Min read time