For well over half a century, the American dream has typically centered on life in the suburbs. A move to the idyllic suburbs—picket fences, sidewalks, cul-de-sacs, the whole deal—has traditionally signified success, a move up the economic ladder. Lately, however, the ‘burbs host millions more residents living below the poverty level than do America’s “poor” inner cities, and poverty rates in suburbia are rising faster than any other residential setting.
According to the Brookings Institution’s recent analysis of Census data, poverty rates rose all over the U.S. during the recession era: From 2007 to 2010, poverty rates increased in 79 of the 100 largest metro areas, and median household income decreased in 82 of the 100 largest metro areas.
But one type of area in particular—the prototypical American suburb—has gotten poorer quicker, and that’s been the trend even before the financial collapse of 2007. The Brookings report states:
A combination of factors including overall population growth, job decentralization, aging of housing, immigration, region-wide economic decline, and policies to promote mobility of low-income households led increasing shares of the poor to inhabit suburbs over the decade. From 2000 to 2010, the number of poor individuals in major-metro suburbs grew 53 percent, compared to 23 percent in cities.
Overall, urban residents are still far more likely to be poor than their counterparts in suburbia: The poverty rate in U.S. cities in 2010 stood at 20.9% in cities, compared to 11.4% in the suburbs.
But the suburbs are catching up in the race to the bottom, and there are currently more suburban residents than city dwellers living below the poverty level. Per CNN Money’s story about the Brookings Institution’s analysis, there were 15.4 million suburbanites living in poverty in 2010, compared to 12.7 million living below the poverty level in cities. Whereas poverty levels rose 11.5% from 2009 to 2010 in the suburbs, they inched up 5% in cities.
From 2000 to 2010, the poor populations skyrocketed in the outskirts of many cities: The Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, and Milwaukee areas are among the 16 spots around the country where the number of suburban residents below the poverty level more than doubled during the decade. During the recent years of economic strife (2007 to 2010), the U.S. suburbs added 3.4 million poor, compared to 2 million more poor people in cities.
Now, the irony, of course, comes from a great many once "lower income" families who have lived in the poor neighborhoods and such, struggling for years to find that so-called American Dream as they say "oh you poor little rich kid". And, in an odd sense, it does make a person pause for a moment. But, consider:
This trend of seeing the higher educated and better socially placed, for lack of better words, people struggling in this generation could be a hallmark for the whole middle and lower class income brackets to thin into real starving poverty. Why, well, it really comes down to a line from the 70's, maybe 60's, referring to us as Starship Earth. You see, we are all in this together.
I am single, have had some breaks in my life, and so I guess I live at a middle income. My coworkers range from being similarly blessed to one now homeless. I have a worker new to us who came from a job making twice what I do only to now be happily working for minimum wage. And, as we in this economic environment repeatedly tighten our belts, we buy fewer widgets, gadgets, and gizmo's. We find ways of keeping our vehicles longer, of going out to dinner less often, and of vacations spent at home. This, I think, is a rolling issue, evolving into a consumer less likely to buy the frivolity of last generation. That, oddly,rolls into fewer dollars for people employed in those fields, who then spend less to make their ends meet, which..... you get my point.
That greed is considered a sin is no surprise. It focuses on only the self, forgetting the community around and the people near by. Further, it is not something that comes to a positive conclusion but seems to only breed a continuing starvation and need for more greed in that original person as well as those he/she begins to infect. And yet, that is the economic focus as of late. As the rich starve the underclass, so very focused on their right as (ahem) "job creators" (?), they seem to forget that the very backs that carried them to their mansions are being broken and losing the ability to carry further.
So, as silly as it sounds to bemoan the sinking position of the "middle class", America needs that very diversity and market driving force of an economically multi-strata populace.