A (Possible, Partial) Myth About Suburban Poverty

MLewyn's picture

A recent blog post commenting on the growth of suburban poverty has the headline: "As Cities Prosper, Poor Move to Suburbs."  The headline seems to imply a simple story: poor people priced out of the city are moving to suburbs.  (In fairness, the story itself is much less simplistic).  But it seems to me that there are a variety of other possible explanations for the growth in suburban poverty:

1.  Because of the economic downturn, people already living in suburbia are more likely to lose their jobs and thus have poverty-level incomes.

2.  Poorer neighborhoods have been spreading for decades past the central core, as poor people who are just well-off enough to avoid the city's poorest neighborhoods move into slightly less poor neighborhoods to escape the violence and other social problems of thir prior neighborhoods.  Now, these "improving poor" are spreading past the city limits where they had not done so in the past.  

To what extent are these scenarios truer than the "priced out of the city" scenario?  I don't know; to answer this question, one would have to ascertain: (1) the extent to which suburban poor were poor before the late 2000s recession; (2) where they lived before the recession; and (3) why they left.


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