Suburban Poverty: A Reality Check

MLewyn's picture

I just used Amazon.com to look inside a new book on suburban poverty ("Confronting Suburban Poverty In America" by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube).  

I found the following admission: "[since 2000] poverty rates rose by equal degrees in cities and suburbs (roughly 3 percentage points) though the urban poverty rate remained almost twice as high as the suburban rate". (p. 35).  So although the gap between cities and suburbs has narrowed slightly, cities are still more poverty-packed than suburbs.

Why does this matter?  There is a story loose in the land, one common among both supporters of urbanism wishing to celebrate triumph, and social equity advocates and NIMBYs obsessed with gentrification.  According to this story, the United States is becoming Paris, where the elites live in the city and the poor are pushed into exurbia.  Urbanists use this story to show that their triumph is inevitable.  Others use it as a reason to prevent urban redevelopment oriented towards the middle and upper classes. But (fortunately or unfortunately) this story is still rubbish.

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