NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 7, 2006

As Americans flee the cities for the suburbs, many are failing to leave poverty behind.  The suburban poor outnumbered inner-city counterparts for the first time last year, with more than 12 million suburban residents living in poverty, according to a study of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas released today.

"Economies are regional now," said Alan Berube, who co-wrote the report for the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "Where you see increases in city poverty, in almost every metropolitan area, you also see increases in suburban poverty."

Berube said several factors are contributing to an increase in suburban poverty:

  • Suburbs are adding people much faster than cities, making it inevitable that the number of poor people living in suburbs would eventually surpass those living in cities.
  • The poverty rate in large cities (18.8 percent) is higher than it is in the suburbs (9.4 percent); but the overall number of people living in poverty is higher in the suburbs, in part because of population growth.
  • Recent immigrants are increasingly bypassing cities and moving directly to suburbs, especially in the South and West; those immigrants, on average, have lower incomes than people born in the United States.


  • In 1999, the number of poor people living in cities and suburbs was roughly even, at about 10.3 million each, according to the report.
  • Last year, the suburban poor outnumbered their urban counterparts by about 1.2 million.
  • Cleveland was the city with the highest poverty rate last year, at 32.4 percent.
  • McAllen, Texas, was the suburb with the highest poverty rate, at 43.9 percent.

Source: Stephen Ohlemacher, "U.S. poverty is moving to suburbs, study finds," Associated Press/Seattle Times-Union, December 7, 2006.

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