Reorganization May Be Necessary To Lower Suburban Poverty

There are numerous reasons for the increase in suburban poverty, but finding a solution may prove more difficult.

Two homes in the suburbs at dusk.

Photo: Maureen Sill (Flickr)

Many people in the suburbs are living below the poverty line.

Both locally and nationally, suburban poverty rates are rising faster than in urban and rural areas. And in Indiana, suburban poverty has nearly doubled since 1970.  Elizabeth Kneebone is co-author of the book Confronting Suburban Poverty in America. 

“There are actually now more poor residents living in our suburbs than in cities. Think about what’s causing increasing poverty in the suburbs” Kneebone says. “It can be because people are moving to suburban communities who have lower income. It can also be longer-term residents slipping down the economic ladder after two recessions the last decade and structural changes in the economy that show many jobs paying less.”

David Reingold, executive associate dean at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, notes the rise in suburban poverty parallels a suburban exodus in the United States over the last 50 years.

“The suburbanization of the United States has taken place after basic organization of government was established,” Reingold explains.  “And one of the big challenges that we have is that our organization of government hasn’t changed or caught up with the geographic reorganization of how people and where people live.”

Kneebone and Reingold agree change will come from a re-framing of the way society thinks about and approaches the issue of suburban poverty on a regional level.  Reingold says government re-organization may be necessary first.

Emily Wright

Emily, an Indianapolis native, joined WFIU/WTIU in 2013 as Producer of Noon Edition. She studied Telecommunications and Liberal Arts Management at Indiana University.

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