Cities Where Suburban Poverty Is Skyrocketing

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The number of poor people in U.S. suburbs rose by 63.6% between 2000 and 2011, from 10 million to well over 16 million people. For the first time, there are now more people living in poverty in the suburbs than in cities.

In some metro areas, the number of poor people living outside the city proper has jumped even more rapidly. In the Atlanta, Ga., suburbs there are roughly 480,000 more people living below the poverty line than there were in 2000, an extraordinary 158% increase in the number of the suburban poor. Based on data collected by the Brookings Institution as part of a comprehensive study on suburban poverty, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 cities with the biggest increases in suburban poverty between 2000 and 2011.

Click here to see the 10 cities where suburban poverty is skyrocketing

Most of the metropolitan areas where suburban poverty has grown the most in the past decade also have had the largest overall increases in population. The U.S. population grew by 9.7% between 2000 and 2010. The population of eight of these 10 metro areas grew by at least 15%, and the population of six of the 10 grew by more than 25%. The population of Las Vegas increased by 41.8%, more than any metro area in the country.

Substantial job opportunities in these areas can explain the sizable increase in the populations of these places, according to Brookings Institution fellow and study author Elizabeth Kneebone. Several of these cities, including Las Vegas and Phoenix, have increased employment by more than 10% between 2000 and 2011. Austin increased the number of people with jobs by 23.4% during that time.

The rising population and increased job opportunities both led to a major increase in home prices. This pushed poorer residents living in the city — as well as low-income new residents moving to the metro area from another city — to the city’s outskirts. Kneebone said, “as some of these really rapidly developing places have grown, families will drive until they qualify, they’ll move outwards until they can find a home they can afford.”

While the increase in population and rising home prices have clearly been a factor in the rising numbers of poor people outside of cities, Kneebone cautioned that this is not the only factor affecting suburban poverty. “It is also,” she noted, “long-term residents that have been hit hard by the economy in the last decade. The recession clearly has a role in this trend.”

While the recession had an impact by increasing suburban poverty even in the healthiest economies, it was especially the case in cities like Detroit and Minneapolis. These are cities where the population has either not kept pace with national grown or declined, and where new jobs have not been added. In these areas, the suburban poverty problem is increasingly due to declining the manufacturing and construction sectors — problems only worsened by the recession.

It should be noted that while these cities have rapid rises in the number of poor people living in the suburbs, in several cases these metro areas remain below the U.S. average for suburban poverty. If rates continue to go up at this astronomic rate over the next 10 years, however, that may soon change.

To determine the cities where poverty increased the most between 2000 and 2011, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures published by the Brookings Institution’s report, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.” Brookings also provided information on poverty rates and the number of impoverished residents at both the suburban and city levels for 95 of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. Five were not considered in the report because they did not have complete data available. Additionally, 24/7 Wall st. considered figures on population growth between 2000 and 2010 published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Statistical Abstract. Information on five-year change in home prices, through the first quarter of 2013, are from the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These are the cities where suburban poverty increased the most between 2000 and 2011.