When we started suburban-poverty.com we had no idea what we’d come across. Texas has surprised us a little. Perhaps because right wing presidential hopeful Perry hails from Texas the state is enjoying some extra profile in North American discourse. It seems the economy is doing well in right wing terms: lots of new crap jobs, low taxes and so forth. The state is also physically more or less on fire from one end to the other, has been a brutal series of global warming oranges and reds on the continental weather maps for some time now. Here’s some more Texas consciousness for you:
Poverty in the suburbs looks different than urban models
It just keeps getting better with Elizabeth Warren. I mean, who else do you think we’d have a crush on around here? A critter like Ayn Rand, uber goddess to the far right? A woman we just discovered spent the last seven years of her life collecting social security?
2010 Census data has come under analysis and it shows that the general US economy is not in the best of shape. Curiously, the percentage rate of African American poverty is a just a tad lower than that for white Americans. It’s hard to say off-the-cuff what this means but we see it’s enough to get this emerging downturn labelled in the mainstream media as ‘different this time’ and as a suburban recession/depression.
Welcome to the suburban depression CNBC
A modest moment of truth and advocacy in the UK online press today. How lovely, after all the recent idiocy over Murdoch, to be reminded such moments are possible.
A major HR industry figure in a western country has spoken some truth for the record. Not a pleasant truth, no. But surely the truth is a good place to start when assessing where it’s all going? The only thing the chief economist for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development forgot to add to his description of younger people’s job prospects was “…and in the suburbs.”
Youngsters put off work by ‘crap’ jobs, says CIPD: Employers who moan that young people lack the right attitude for jobs should acknowledge that in many cases the roles they offer are “crap” and low paid Telegraph
One doesn’t have to look far or be a professional demographer/geographer to find evidence of suburban poverty. Des Moines, Iowa put its hand up during roll call in 2007.
Rethinking Social Services in the Des Moines Suburbs
NPR page with audio file
The Oil Drum blog is good daily reading for anyone concerned about our global energy future. Even the comments from the readership are so smart it’s scary. Suburbia draws on energy resources for the commuting and consuming it is dependent upon. The fact those energy resources are more expensive and harder to get at calls into question the very viability of the entire complex of things that go with suburbia. If the energy available to suburbia declined what would happen to the poor there? We think they’d have plenty of company as what is left of the middle class gets demoted by the energy and financial dysfunction to come. There may still be reason to argue about when exactly the energy dysfunction will really go big but we don’t see how a person in touch with reality even moderately can believe in a techno-utopian future suite of fixes that will allow us to prance past the energy issue. Jeff Vail has been writing about practical responses to the energy issues of suburbia for some time now. He wrote about resilient suburbia for the Oil Drum in 2008. In 2010 he gave an address called Rescuing Suburbia at an ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil) conference. Links below.
Rescuing Suburbia video & powerpoint slides 2010
A Resilient Suburbia? 4-part series 2008
We came across this item this morning and thought we’d offer it up as an example of resiliency. It’s about a family forced by economic circumstance to let go of their ideas of well off suburban living. A lot of how they live would be familiar to generations past in that it involves conserving resources and doing without. Carbon and other footprints seem to have been reduced in this reversal of the usual success story. Giving up the American/Canadian/Australian/British suburban dream doesn’t have to mean failure, misery and a lack of joy. Pretty soon we all might end up…
Living Right on the “Wrong” Side of Town
If this item interests you, ask at the library for a copy of No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. There’s also a series of articles on the Guardian website about one Mark Boyle, a man living completely without money.
America has think tanks. It would be tough to count just how many there are. Luckily, at least one or two are getting their collective brain power around suburban poverty. This posting links to a research brief from the Center for Studying Health Care Change. The brief looks at health care data for poorer suburban populations in Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami, and Seattle. It seems these populations rely on visits to hospital emergency departments and face barriers to service including transportation. Many suburban poor it seems also travel to hospitals in older core areas that face this demand for service on top of local, urban demands. This document adds thoughtful detail to what suburban poverty means in the United States.
Suburban poverty and the health care safety net
Leaving core city areas for cheaper housing in the suburbs is one of the few strategies available to lower income people. Thing is, when they get out to the suburbs public transit is scarce and car ownership sometimes mandatory. The financial requirements of getting around, especially reaching a workplace, could easily soak up any gains from the cheaper housing.
These two links are to short items on Wired blogs. They mention a Brookings Institution report into the matter and a recent American civil rights conference which concluded that reasonable access to transportation is actually a human right.
Ever wait in snow up to your ankles for a bus at 5:30 in the morning? Ever have the timing belt snap on a fifteen year old Honda Civic in an industrial park after getting off the afternoon shift? If so, you know what it’s all about.
No public transit? No job…
Transportation as a civil rights issue
The photo attached to the article linked below could have been taken in any of the English-speaking countries. What a drag that is! The fact that very large, resource-rich countries like Canada, Australia and the States see working people struggling with crap wages, a high cost of living and the threat of downward mobility is bad news. I wonder if they have Dollarama down there?
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