Recession Drives Up Concentrated Poverty in America's Suburbs

EconMatters's picture




Brookings just published a new study analyzing data on neighborhood poverty from the 2005–09 American Community Surveys and Census 2000, and here are some of the very depressing findings:

  • Over a ten-year span, the number of Americans in poverty has grown by 12.3 million reaching a historic high of 46.2 million. By the end of 2010, over 15% of the nation’s population lived below the federal poverty line—$22,314 for a family of four in 2010.
  • At least 2.2 million more Americans, a 33% jump since 2000, live in neighborhoods where the overall poverty rate is 40% or higher.
  • Housing bust and the mass loss of manufacturing and auto industry jobs during the two recessions in the study period hit the Midwestern and Southern metro areas the hardest.  Midwest saw its concentrated poverty nearly doubled from 2000 to 2005–09, while Southern metro areas experienced an increase by one-third. 


  • Although poverty remains more of an urban phenomenon with more than two-thirds of extremely poor neighborhoods still in cities such as Chicago and Detroit, the number of Americans in extremely poor suburban neighborhoods are growing more than twice as fast--rising by 37%, vs. the 16% growth in cities.(Screenshot below, full interactive map available on  )
  • Black residents continued to comprise the largest share (45%) of the population in these extreme-poverty neighborhoods, and over two-thirds of residents had a high school diploma or less.




The Census Bureau already released its result in September that not only showed the number of people living in poverty was the highest in the 52 years, since the agency started tracking the statistics, but also that U.S. household income fell to its lowest level in more than a decade in 2010.  Bloomberg noted that the Census data also showed roughly one in 16 American workers made less than half the poverty rate in 2010, a 12.6% increase from 2007.


This just illustrates how deep this recession has cut into the American middle class.  Traditionally, the white-picket-fence suburb has long been associated with the social status of upper-middle-class affluence.  The migration of poverty into the suburb is just one of many examples that the Great Recession and the staggering number of the long-term unemployed has created yet another New Normal in America.    


In the medium term, although the U.S. economy might be able to escape a full blown double dip recession, a slow crawl out of the deep hole from the Great Recession and the 2008 financial crisis is to be expected.


Some in the international community believe this global economic downturn originated in the U.S.  That might be partly true, but it also means the U.S. is ahead of the curve in terms of recovery.  Unfortunately, it also means some crises such as the Europe sovereign debt are just starting or waiting to unravel, which could impede the already very tepid recovery in the U.S.   


For now, all eyes of world markets are fixated on Europe and mostly have priced in an eventual orderly resolution of the sovereign debt crisis which has been going on for well over a year.  Based on that expectation, the U.S. should be able to stay on track, and corporations would start hiring and investing on a larger scale again.  The jobless rate, which already saw a 0.1% reduction in October, would start to recede and hopefully help at least halt and/or improve the poverty stricken population.


However, we think some high poverty areas in Brookings study such as Detroit, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois, most likely would be slow to improve as these cities have gradually lost the competitive edge that brought their prosperity decades before.  For example, many good paying auto-related jobs have now moved out of the once dominant Motor City area, and into other states with more favorable business friendly policies.  So without a major overhaul of tax, labor and business incentive related policies at the local and state levels. these areas are unlikely to see as much improvement.


Related Reading-A Lost Decade into The Great Middle Class Poverty?


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earleflorida's picture

Question - how has hillary's, "it takes a village", worked for america,... all [and not the afghanistan/iraq/me/  villiages she concentrates all our foreign aid on? - not to forget military aid] american's? -

it seems the feminist movement, now has her on the "Greatest Progressive  Woman in Modern Time History List"-

the movement has strong connections  within the political  arena, and is  aggressively catapulting the "Queen of Spades" into the V.P. slot for 2012.

her primary fundraiser from 2008 was none other than Lynn Forrester de`Rothschild,... wife of Sir Evelyn de`Rothschild.

think about these wealthy [women & husbands] people, and how they build villages all over the world on the u.s. taxpayers dime, and ignore their own mother land,... think deeply, and think long! 

PulauHantu29's picture

The zero-down NINJA Loans were mostly handed out in these "newly created suburbs" the last ten years.....

The bad news is they are still handing the zero down and near zero down loans out. As long as this continues there will be no RE recovery for decades.

Mr.Sono's picture

here in Miami, malls are packed with people. you can't even find parking space. I guess its just matter of time till poverty would spread to city areas. Until then, things are ok for most people. I guess after that we will see Greece style riots.

I hate malls.

Widowmaker's picture

Long poverty and the stricken.

Mission accomplished. Motherfuckers can starve, young and old alike.

Bush Cheney 2000.

Jedi Longsabre's picture

I'm not so sure SD. If you try to stickup someone here in the south they will probably get their head blown off. Gun laws a bit different here, especially in Texas.

GCT's picture

Most large metropolitan areas have always had a larger population in poverty.  Forty-eight percent of Chicago and Detroit's population cannot read.  Illegal aliens in alot of those areas do indeed draw welfare.  Until real jobs return to our shores this is only going to get worse.  The government screws small business while bailing out the big guys all the darn time. 

I guess flipping burgers is the new norm.


prains's picture

Recession Drives Up Concentrated Poverty in America's Suburbs

dude with a title like that you need some kick ass BW phots of what that actually means not the whiney graphs. Less accounting and more get in your fucking car and show people what you mean.

Seasmoke's picture

looks like all that is left of America is the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana

Freddie's picture

However, we think some high poverty areas in Brookings study such as Detroit, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois, most likely would be slow to improve as these cities have gradually lost the competitive edge that brought their prosperity decades before.

Who the f**k would want anything to do with Detroit or Chicago?  As bad as Detroit is, it is at least being depopulated and bull dozed.  Trees, animals and foilage are reclaiming areas which is a GREAT improvement.  Chicago is such a corrupt dem shit hole where the public is screwed by the exchanges in Chicago.  Chicago deserves the same fate as Detroit.

max2205's picture

Chicago is death in progress

TheMerryPrankster's picture

Poverty is just getting started. In the race to become the world's fastest collapsing 1st world economy, the U.S. must destroy the middle class.

Fortunately, just about every policy decision and corporate decision has been implemented in just such a way as to hasten the middle class demise.

Trade policy and tax policy are the fastest ways to reverse this collapse and both are going nowhere fast.

I don't think you can paint a better indictment of the failed political leadership of the past 40 odd years, than to look at poverty levels, food stamp participation and wages and salaries in our current dying economy.

This is a precursor to greece style riots in American cities. When the new poor figure out they got gamed and it ain't coming back, well shit they got nothing to lose now don't they.


therearetoomanyidiots's picture

"they" necessarily have to destroy our standard of living, otherwise international corporations (and elites, if you'd like to add them in) can't continue to convince the poor of the working nations (india, china, mexico, etc) that global expansion is good.  


Therefore, they need to lower our level of existence rather than try to raise the rest.  If they were to raise the standard of living in China, for intance, the price of everything would skyrocket. 


This had to happen, 'they' had to make the US come down a few notches to increase expansion in global markets.   I'm no OWSer but clearly, we were sold out long ago...the start was NAFTA, Perot was a genius.  

Widowmaker's picture

The war on poverty was lost (created to fail) with LBJ, and all the boomers cheered.

Poverty=record bonuses in fraud currency. What is not to like?

Poverty is shiny, and only seeks to distract from robbery in the name of good cause.

Generosity and sacrifice fight poverty, not US incorporated fraud at the hands of government redistributionists for hire.

Poverty is a lie from tip to bottom, we're all poor just playing along with class racketeering.

AldousHuxley's picture

poverty is not increasing.



poverty is being made transparent now that consumer credit has dried up.


90% of americans spend more than they make. Yup, mortgage with INTEREST payments is spending more than you have driving up asset prices of shitty old homes for the benefit of old money banksters.

How many Americans have net worth greater zero when you take away the credit card debt, mortgage debt, student loan debt, car loan debt? The game is over....America's leaders have kept their power with credit fueled giveaway to wage slaves. Slave are just now waking up to the fact that they are just slaves no matter the income level as long as they have DEBT to banks.

dolly madison's picture

poverty is being made transparent now that consumer credit has dried up.


You got a point.  In the early 2000s was when it fell apart in Northern California  There was tons of tech layoffs.  I was too busy riding the real estate bubble at the time to notice.

Luckily since I had already lost money when the Nasdaq bubble popped, I realized there would be an end to the bubble and I started buying some cheap properties for cash instead of loan.

dwayne elizando's picture

Exactly. I live in southwest MI and the depression here started in the late 90s. Besides the people who went wild with credit it's been down hill for the people here for awhile. Needless to say the credit junkies are falling into the same boat as everyone else now.

adr's picture

Is that a population map showing the highest concentrations of blacks and hispanics?

Funny how a state like West Virginia that most people would normally associate with poor people doesn't have a single dot.

Ohio is just overun with poverty. Funny how I see overloaded shopping carts coming out of every urban grocery store and Walmart in Cleveland. Damn those poor people sure know how to shop. Ghetto mamas buying Xboxes, 50" TVs, and iPods along with Angus steak and plump gulf shrimp for dinner. Loading up all the stuff in a brand new Chevy, telling her blood shot eyed white T shirt wearing, blue dew rag headed son to get the fuck in the car now. Ahh to be poor and on a government dime. This isn't racism, it's reality folks. If you think different I invite you to come see the 1500 sq ft luxury townhouse welfare parks being built all over NE Ohio. You can marvel at a welfare queen with five children loading up three grocery carts to the brim.

It ain't poverty if you have a meal on every plate three times a day, a brand new car, and a 50" TV. I notice that Appalacia doesn't even register on that poverty map. You want to see real poverty go there. You won't see a single family with a 50 TV.

Urban poverty in a farce unless you are a homeless drugged out white vietnam vet.

Escapeclaws's picture

You think that is bad? Why I saw one of those welfare moms in Balduccis the other day wearing Hermes silk scarf, carrying a Gucci handbag, looking like a million bucks.  Out of curiosity, I followed her back to her apartment building which was right on Central Park West close to the Dakota. Scandalous, I tell ya, just scandalous!

You want to solve this economic problem--just go after those urban welfare moms! It's not the banksters or the politicians who are at fault here. Fortunately, there are some pretty perceptive folks here at ZH to point these things out! The only thing to do is to implore our politicians to grant us ten or more years of the most draconian austerity.

Freddie's picture

h it's worse than that.  Have a new neighbor renting a few doors down and probably paying $3,500 a month with new cars and a jet ski. No one ever goes to work.  Another Obama voter picked up a $650,000-$750,000 home and added many upgrades plus new cars as well. Cars seem to be there a lot.  Obama voters.  Never saw anything like it is 30+ years. 

Shopping carts packed at the grocery stores while old white seniors not on food stamps have a basket with about 3 items and they check every price three times on those items. I am pretty much sick of food shopping.

AldousHuxley's picture

obama voter? I see illegal aliens who don't even vote drive around Cadillac Escalades in California from flipping homes in the Latin ghetto.


Find that youtube video of illegal alien construction worker who had income of $25k/year who bought $500k home and took a loan out to install $20k luxury swimming pool in the backyard.


$650k home used to be $200k for your parents. Your wages despite more education didn't triple? hah! That's inflation for you. Banksters love it.

TheMerryPrankster's picture

I thought Archie Bunker was cancelled.

dalkrin's picture

Top 100 metro regions.  So yes, does reflect a high minority segment.

Would have been more useful if they went by state or county.

TheMerryPrankster's picture

Top 100 urban areas - so most folks including me don't have a clue what counties comprise what cities in the top 100 metro areas.

The map is meant to provide an overview of the situation with a quick glance. It doesn't show overall poverty levels, only changes in certain urban areas. Even so I find it difficult to beleive that southern cali has not seen an increase in poverty, between the cost of housing and the dearth of construction jobs and the collapse of the mortgage and banking industrys, the only industry left is entertainment, landscaping and in-n-out burger.

The next 2 years are critical as folks run out of things to sell, or pawn as meager savings is consumed and more folks who went back to school to escape the depression tumble out of the schools and into the continuing economic collapse.

Christmas 2012 will be heart breaking - no make that 2012 will be heart breaking. If you are not a drinker, you might want to think about taking it up.

Widowmaker's picture

What is heartbreaking is you thinking what you own is really yours.

Far from it as it is confiscated [engineered] from you.

Remember bush beat gore in a thrown election decided in the most crooked state with his brothers influence -- RUSHED AND HUSHED!!

A fucking joke, two wars, and incorporated looting since.... Add poverty and a flight suit and that sums up the last decade.

Where the fuck was the rest of America? On the auction block, and never anywhere else. If you voted bush you voted for inorporated poverty and crime. Both are community problems, not government .... Now ask yourself, what is REALLY goin on...

All answers lead to the synthetic abyss, where no one will see it coming except gods drones performing justice abortions to save you from yourself and "national security."

Mission accomplished wasn't for America it was 100% against.

BigDuke6's picture

More red than blue in that map but if it cheers you up Europe is much worse.

Millions on benefits, they are bored and unemployable.

Islam has been imported big time

in the uk 50% of muslim males are on welfare.   75% of muslim females being paid to 'outbreed the kuffar' full time on welfare.

How can that not kick off?  The Europeans love a big scrap every 50 years.


Sudden Debt's picture

America is just like europe, if you notice, the south is more poor than the north.

I think you'll start to see more highway robbery's and stickups on the roads like you see in south europe. I once was a victim of a robbery by 4 guys on the highway, and let me tell you, that's fucking scarry.

Uchtdorf's picture

Thanks for reminding to spend more time in the woods practicing my marksmanship.