December 16, 2006
For approximately the last forty years there has been a relatively constant percentage of the American population counted as poor -- ranging between 12 and 14 percent. The poverty rate last year (2005) was 12.6 percent, having risen every year since the decade began. The federal government defined poverty last year to be an income of less than $15,577 for a family of three.
A question whose answer invariably draws puzzled looks from the audience is this: "Under what modern U.S. President was the poverty rate the lowest?" Nixon. But it wasn't a significantly lower percentage -- roughly 11.5 percent -- than the relatively constant percentage noted above. (And I think that it true that the poverty rate fell to almost the same rate during President Clinton's last term. I'll check.) And although the nature of poverty has changed substantially during the forty years that the rate has remained constant -- mainly from being a lifelong or long-term phenomenon to being an episodic one, one aspect of poverty that most of us would confidently have predicted is that it is principally an urban phenomenon.
A new study from Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution tells us that this latter prediction is no longer true. According to a story in the December 7, 2006, Wall Street Journal, "[t]he suburban poor outnumbered their inner-city counterparts for the first time last year, with more than 12 million suburban residents living in poverty." Additionally, "[t]he poverty rate in large cities (18.8 percent) is still 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." "Cleveland was the city with the highest poverty rate last year, at 32.4 percent, while San Jose had the lowest, at 9.7 percent. Suburban McAllen, Texas, at the southern tip of the state, was the suburb with the highest poverty rate last year, at 43.9 percent, while suburban Des Moines, Iowa, had the lowest rate at 3.7 percent."
December 16, 2006 | Permalink
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