Poverty surging in DFW Suburbs

A friend sent me this article a while ago and I thought it went well with the two recent articles I posted! It was originally from the Dallas Morning News.

 

Poverty surging in Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs more than inner cities, study finds

By MICHAEL E. YOUNG
MICHAEL E. YOUNG The Dallas Morning News
Staff Writer
Published: 20 May 2013 12:28 AM
Updated: 20 May 2013 12:31 AM

Over the last decade, people living below the poverty level — $22,000 for a family of four — have surged into suburban neighborhoods in most major metropolitan areas, including Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, at a rate more than twice that of urban centers.
According to “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” a report released Monday by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, the poor population in the nation’s suburbs increased by 64 percent over the last decade, with 3 million more poor residents in the suburbs than in the big cities.
In Dallas-Fort Worth, the number of poor people living in the suburbs more than doubled between 2000 and 2011. The number went from 224,443 to 474,023, an increase of 111.2 percent and the 12{+t}{+h}-highest rate of the 95 metropolitan areas in the survey. The growth rate in the region’s cities was far lower — 67.9 percent — though poverty rates remain higher in the cities — 23.3 percent — compared with 11.5 percent in the North Texas suburbs.
The numbers signal a geographic shift for people living in poverty or slightly above, one that isn’t likely to change, the authors of the report say.
“When people think of poverty in America, they tend to think of inner-city neighborhoods or isolated rural communities,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, who co-authored the report with Alan Berube. “But today, suburbs are home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country.”
The lure is the same that draws other suburbanites — with the perception of better schools and safer neighborhoods high on the list, said Berube, a senior fellow at Brookings. “But the long-term things you need to succeed — like proximity to work — you tend to lose.”
The move to the suburbs is largely the result of decades of change and growth, the authors say. The suburbs became the fastest-growing and largest centers for impoverished residents even before the latest recession.
But that certainly added to the impact, mostly by providing a huge pool of available housing for those eager to accept government vouchers to help pay their mortgages.
“There were a lot of suburbs that were at the forefront of the recession, places that built too much housing. And when prices fell and people couldn’t buy because of the mortgage crisis, employment and the economy in those places dried up quickly,” Berube said.
“These were the 2000 version of the 1970 suburbs, before those places grew an economy of their own. You had a lot of property investors who bought these places to hold while prices went up and up, and they were looking for a steady source of income: housing vouchers.”
But in the shift to the suburbs, much was left behind, like easy access to public transit and the social agencies that could “help point you in the right direction, if not to get ahead, at least get by in emergency circumstances,” Berube said.
Meeting the needs of the suburban poor requires a different approach than that of the past.
The War on Poverty programs from the 1960s provided resources to neighborhood-level organizations that they could use to counter the one or two things those residents thought would most help in alleviating poverty, Berube said.
“But it’s clear we can’t replicate that for suburbia,” he said. “Those can’t be the models because this isn’t an inner-city issue or a suburban issue. It’s really a regional issue.”
In the Dallas area, the number of poor people quadrupled between 1970 and 2011, from 268,585 to more than 1 million, the study states.
“And when you look at the wider economy, I’m guessing you have about a third of the total population with income less than twice the poverty level,” or about 2.2 million people in the metropolitan area, Berube said. “If you think you can leave it to the local jurisdictions to create a future of opportunity for a third of the population, that’s kind of ridiculous.”
For a possible approach, he points to Houston, where a program called Neighborhood Centers provides resources and education to more than 236,000 people at 60 locations in Houston and adjacent Gulf Coast areas.
“It does more than one thing at a time and in more than one place at a time,” he said.
“One of the successes of social policy over the last three or four decades is helping the poor in ways that give them a choice by giving them a voucher,” Berube said. “That’s great.
“It’s a shame, though, that with a little more money and a little more time, we could have helped those families find the place that will give the best chance for the success for their kids, success in the job market,” he said. “We kind of leave that out.”
With the nation’s economy showing signs of improvement, Berube said, he hopes unemployment rates fall and people find work and rising incomes.
“But that isn’t going to change the shape of where poverty is taking place,” he said. “That’s a structural phenomenon, and that isn’t going to change.”

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