Poor and poorer

August 18, 2014

Like a lot of U.S. suburban areas around the country, Ferguson, Missouri is getting poorer. Underlying the weeks-long protests against the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager happening in the small suburban city north of St. Louis this month is a rapid demographic shift. Today, the Brookings Institution takes a look at how the poverty rate has changed in just the last decade:

ferguson_2000

 

ferguson_2008_2012

Just how much poorer has Ferguson gotten? “The city’s unemployment rate rose from less than 5 percent in 2000 to over 13 percent in 2010-12. For those residents who were employed, inflation-adjusted average earnings fell by one-third,” writes Elizabeth Kneebone (who, it should be noted, has literally written the book on this trend). And Ferguson is not alone. In the first decade of the 21st century, poverty rates grew in suburban areas around the country, and already poor areas saw poverty become more concentrated.

Kneebone points out that one of the issues with increasing suburban poverty (besides, well, everything) is one of scale: “Ferguson is just one of 91 jurisdictions in St. Louis County. This often translates into inadequate resources and capacity to respond to growing needs and can complicate efforts to connect residents with economic opportunities that offer a path out of poverty,” she writes.

Think about that for a moment. Whatever the failings of the war on urban poverty, suburban poverty stands to become an even bigger problem.

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