Rising poverty and persistent unemployment have become more prominent in suburbs over the past decade. In fact, the Great Recession hit suburbs as hard as cities and currently there are more poor people living in the suburbs of our largest metropolitan areas than in the central cities of those metros. Despite these significant changes in the spatial distribution of poverty, relatively little research has explored what might be driving recent shifts in the geography of poverty and what these shifts might mean for social welfare policy. To begin to fill these gaps, this project poses several research questions about the changing geography of poverty in the wake of the Great Recession and its implications for the safety net:
Suburbs were home to a large and fast-growing poor population in the 2000s, yet few of the suburban communities studied have a social services infrastructure in place to address the challenges of increasing poverty. The Great Recession has exacerbated this gap between demand and capacity in the suburbs, as nonprofit social service providers have been increasingly asked to help rising numbers of low-income families but with tighter budgets and fewer resources. This project and initial report for the Brookings Institution assess the challenges that rising suburban poverty poses for local safety nets and community-based organizations.
Although cash and in-kind safety net assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Unemployment Insurance (UI) provide benefits for millions in the aftermath of the Great Recession, formal private support from charitable nonprofit organizations and informal private social support help families experiencing job loss and housing problems cope with hardship. This project focuses on: