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
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
The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine published a paper this July describing problems associated with addiction services in suburban areas. This is the kind of piece that expands our understanding of what suburban poverty means in a needed, detailed way. Much of the discussion of low density, ex-urban life focusses on matters of land use, environmental sustainability, energy, politics, taste and aesthetics. We are now long beyond the point where social realities need to be considered on an equal footing with the physical design of communities.
Suburban Poverty: Barriers to Services and Injury Prevention among Marginalized Women who Use Methamphetamine
The working poor and immigrants were pulled to the suburbs and the Edge Cites during the real estate boom. After the crash, these groups are stranded in dispersed locations where social services and jobs tend to be thin on the ground. Enormous stress is created for vulnerable people when, for example, they try to access food banks on foot or via public transit. When they get to a resource they may then find it struggling for resources as well. Rapid growth in suburbia during the boom often resulted in under-funding of social services or reliance on uneven private, charitable efforts. The perception of poverty as an urban or inner city social ill also distorts responses and, like the Great Recession that sponsors so much of it, is not really going away fast. This podcast is about 15 minutes and refers to recent Brookings findings.
Next American City » Metro Matters Podcast » The Suburban Poor: An Interview with Elizabeth Kneebone and Scott Allard.
Brookings Institution has followed its earlier papers on suburban poverty with several worthy efforts.
Below is a link for downloading their October 2010 paper about the difficulties facing social services in suburbia after the economic crash of 2008. Tough times in America for the working poor: with implications for understanding experiences in other countries including Canada and the UK. The paper includes statistical evidence on reported incomes and includes ‘on-the-ground’ impressions from three major urban-suburban agglomerations. Part of the ‘Metropolitan Opportunity’ series.
Suburban safety nets rely on relatively few social services organizations, and tend to stretch operations across much larger service delivery areas than their urban counterparts.
This second link, to a University of Chicago page, includes video from one of the authors and some links to mainstream media coverage.
Poverty grows in suburbs, but social services don’t keep up