Poverty grows on Maple Street
In 1964, as President Lyndon Johnson launched a broad platform to abolish American poverty, images of American poverty focused on the inner-city and rural poor.
Today, fifty years later, statistics reveal another rapidly-growing group living in poverty: the suburban poor. The Metropolitan Policy Program of The Brookings Institution tracks national rates of poverty and found that while populations in the suburbs have increased in previous decades, the poverty rate in the suburbs has increased even faster.
According to Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, there are now more poor residents living in the suburbs than in central cities, including over one-third of the nation’s total population.
“Suburban communities with growing poverty may face a distinct set of challenges compared to poor communities in cities. They are often more geographically isolated from jobs, and lack the transit connections that can help link residents to employment opportunities. Social services are often less prevalent due to a lack of local public, nonprofit, and philanthropic capacity.”
—Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube, Confronting Suburban Poverty in America
NewsHour Weekend producer Megan Thompson visited Suffolk County, New York to document the struggles of suburban families living on the edge.
Additional NewHour coverage of poverty in the United States: