Suburban Poverty by the Numbers

Our nation’s suburbs, once considered by some to be white-picket-fenced safe havens from inner-city poverty, are now home to nearly one-third of the poor. Poverty in suburbia has spiked over the last decade, and nonprofits in these areas are struggling to meet the surge in demand for their support services.

The numbers indicate that policymakers need to abandon long-held myopic views of the people and communities that typically see poverty’s effects. Governments should work toward breaking down urban-suburban silos and develop innovative regional approaches to tackling poverty that encompass both cities and suburbs.

Here’s a look at the numbers on rising suburban poverty.

Suburban poverty increased over the last decade

number of people in suburbs in poverty

13.7 million: Number of poor people in the suburbs as of 2009.

37 percent: Increase in the number of poor people in the suburbs since 2000.

1.6 million: How many more poor people lived in the suburbs surrounding the nation’s largest metro areas last year than in inner cities.

50 percent: The increase in poverty in Chicago’s surrounding suburbs between 2000 and 2009. Research uncovered similar trends in more than half the nation’s largest metro areas.

Suburban communities are affected by a growing number of recession-related fiscal challenges including job loss, unemployment and underemployment, and the foreclosure crisis. But an affordable housing shortage and lack of efficient public transit and walkable communities are exacerbating these conditions.

Nonprofits serving the newly poor in the suburbs are meanwhile scrambling to keep up with the increased need.

Suburban support groups are ill prepared to handle new demand

73 percent: Percentage of suburban nonprofits that report seeing more clients with no previous connection to safety-net programs.

Nearly 60 percent: Percentage of suburban nonprofits reporting more frequent requests for help with mortgage or rent payments.

60 percent: Percentage of nonprofits that report offering services in more than one suburban municipality.

34 percent: Percentage of nonprofits that report operating in more than one suburban county.

47 percent: Percentage of suburban nonprofits surveyed that report a loss in a key revenue source last year, with more funding cuts anticipated in the year to come.

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