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Face Of Poverty In New Orleans Increasingly Suburban

Brookings Institution

There’s a new picture of poverty in America. It’s a shifting geography that may come as a surprise. Suburbia is now home to more poor residents than central cities in major metropolitan areas.

Elizabeth Kneebone is a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, just out from Brookings Press. Kneebone is working in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center to begin the regional conversation about suburban poverty, a growing issue in the metro New Orleans area. She began her conversation with WWNO's Diane Mack with  some eye-opening statistics.

From 2000 to 2012 Kneebone says, "The number of poor residents living in suburban communities in major metros grew by 65 percent. That was more than twice the pace of growth in the major cities that anchor those regions, and with that rapid change we actually passed a tipping point for the first time. There are now more poor residents in suburbs than in cities.”

Several factors are contributing to this change. It doesn't always mean that families move, she says.

“The suburban poor population can grow when poor residents move into a community, but also when longer term residents slip down the economic ladder, and it’s really been a combination of those factors.”

In some cases real estate prices in the heart of urban metropolitan areas are rising, pushing families out to the suburbs to find affordable housing. They may continue to work in the urban core area.

Yet, in many cases, Kneebone says, “Suburbs are also where the jobs are."

"Jobs continued to suburbanize in the 2000s. Some of the most suburbanized jobs and industries are ones like retail, and services, construction, manufacturing. Jobs where, even if you’re working full time, that may not be enough to get you above the poverty line.”

Kneebone's work with the GNOCDC on this issue is ongoing.