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
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
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
A Columbus, Ohio study done last year discovered suburban school boards there to be notably poorer than boards elsewhere. That can’t be good for anybody in Ohio’s largest city, can it?
Poverty rising in suburban schools Columbus Dispatch
Resiliency is a charcteristic normally discussed in relation to a single individual. The ability to persevere, to grow, to find resources, to face obstacles and keep moving forward is admired in people. What is good in a person is good in an entire community, too. The resilience of suburban living arrangements is increasingly in question. Leaving aside the possible energy and economic future of suburban living we think it fair to say that the suburbs simply grew too fast. Is it possible that traditional non-profit agencies, state/provincial, municipal, and even national governmental social service agencies simply cannot cope? A couple of academics associated with the University of California and the Brookings Institution recently studied the problems of suburban poverty in Chicago, Denver, Atlanta, and Detroit. An important conclusion was that philanthropy could make a serious counter attack on suburban poverty. In an era of public sector fiscal disaster it is hard to come up with other ideas, but will it happen?
The safety net is thin in suburbs despite growing poverty UC Berkely
Some effort is required to picture a hundred thousand houses, let alone that number left abandoned.
Here’s 100 of them for starters.
Images and statistics of a decayed and dying Detroit have been widely circulated and have become almost a commonplace feature of the Internet. The criticism of such imagery as mere ruin porn is justified …to a point. Yet, how ironic that Detroit is the place that spawned the Model T automobile. Mass produced for sale to the a mass industrial populace the Model T was the grand, uber-progenitor of the primary tool of participation in suburban living – the private automobile.
Squatters Are Taking Over Detroit’s 100,000 Vacant Homes
None other than Commie Rambo Ernesto Che Guevara wrote down a series of principles for suburban warfare. He saw the suburban environment as a unique and difficult venue for guerrilla fighters. His particular vision is long gone but others have been giving some thought to what might come to pass out on the perimeter. Survivalists have certainly been around forever and the invention of the internet gave them a boost. Normally, we’d associate this ammo-and-canned-food-hoarding crowd with rural areas, not suburbia. At least, until we came across these blogs that is. Perhaps things are changing? Did you know acorns can be an awesome post-collapse food source?
Lock and load!
Surviving the Suburbs
Suburban Survival Blog
Historica is the semi-regular feature on suburban-poverty.com that helps you learn how we got here in the first place. Levittown was North America’s first major post-war mass suburb. This short film features Ford tractors in use during Levittown’s construction. It begins with a drive out of New York City to the countryside where a new way of life was being built. The scene is almost cute by comparison to the monster home- and big box retail-dominated Edge Cities of today. You’ll also meet Ed, Ralph and Teeny, the guys who built Levittown. Thanks, guys!
The blog Infrastructurist published an interview in 2009 with Christopher Leinberger. He has done quite a bit to bring the concept of suburban poverty to the mainstream. Leinberger attributes much of the problem to supply and demand and to changing lifestyle expectations. In other words, the magic of the market created the problem and will fix it. Leinberger thinks it will take about thirty years for suburbia to adapt. We love the sound of many of the adaptations required: walkable, mixed-use urban hubs and rail-based public transit for example. He seems to be saying it’s a tall order but achieveable even if there will be losers along the way. Perhaps this effort at structural adaptation could be put in place under government guidance as a response to what really does seem like the end of growth but a dissonance emerges right away. A continental refitting of suburbia would require epic amounts of capital to start and maintain which makes Leinberger’s ideas seem almost hallucinatory given the impairments of the global financial system. At a couple of points Leinberger indicates he is well in touch with reality. He mentions the phenomenon of suburban houses converted into flophouses for groups of unrelated men. Certainly, Leinberger’s efforts at the Brookings Institution also indicate much comprehension of suburban poverty and dysfunction. His take on what to actually do with suburbia is both attractive and disappointing.
How to Save the Suburbs: Solutions from the Man Who Saw the Whole Thing Coming