With the triple seismic shocks of job, housing value, and investment losses, suburban communities are experiencing a lot more than the usual sprawl of development. Poverty, typically associated with urban areas, is landing hard in the suburbs. According the a new study from the Brookings Institution, cited by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, “…the largest and fastest-growing population of poor people in the U.S. is in the suburbs.” From 2000 to 2008, the number of poor people in the U.S. grew by 5.2 million, reaching nearly 40 million. That represented an increase of 15.4 percent in the poor population, which was more than twice the increase in the population as a whole during that period. The study, compiled by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, said, “Suburbs gained more than 2.5 million poor individuals, accounting for almost half of the total increase in the nation’s poor population since 2000.”
The expansion of poverty into suburban communities and the voting patterns of the recent Senate race are probably not un-related. Cities and suburbs alike need new jobs fast. Last year, JVS, in partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies, significantly expanded our employment services in the southern, western, and metro-west suburbs of Boston, in an effort to help hasten re-employment, and ease the terrible economic burdens of unemployment life savings losses. But we face an even more serious challenge if the jobs recovery that seemed to be starting this past Fall, sputters and turns into deeper recession. A second stimulus package, however politically difficult, may turn out to be more critically important than anyone imagined.