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Caucus Recap: Suburban Poverty

November 8, 2014 12:00 PM

By Portia Allen-Kyle, Rutgers University–New Brunswick

This caucus served as a rather open discussion to discuss a growing trend in research on suburban poverty. The session was organized by Paul Jargowsky, Rutgers University–Camden. Discussants included Scott Allard from the University of Washington, Katrin Anacker from George Mason University, Adrienne Halloway from DePaul University, and Rebecca Levine from Boston College.

Jargowsky started the conversation by posing some questions to the group about defining suburbs, impacts on service delivery, and policy implications. He then stated some of the issues with typologies of cities suburbs, while providing helpful distinctions between principal cities, central cities, peri-urban cities, and suburbs based on the population and the percentage of single-family detached homes.

Allard then picked up the conversation by explaining the room for a plurality of definitions. He raised issues regarding units of analysis, spatial discourse of poverty, a nonprofit gap in suburbs that would otherwise provide a safety net to the poor, and the overall decline in public and private funding of antipoverty efforts. Allard provided a way to frame the issue of suburban poverty as one within a broader discourse of policy and opportunity and how resources are deployed.

Anacker addressed the maturity and age of suburbs. She mentioned pre-World War II suburbs as being census tracts with median housing build before 1941; there are over 2,000 of these such tracts across the United States. She then questioned whether these mature suburbs are an East Coast or Midwest phenomenon and what that means for research and policy.

Holloway moved the conversation towards housing choice vouchers and examining the types of neighborhoods to which people were moving. In general, she mentioned that communities to which black families moved were highly disadvantaged whereas the communities to which Hispanic families were moving were disadvantaged but not as much.

Levine raised the issue of the effect of suburban poverty on children’s outcomes. She mentioned that, comparatively, poor suburban children fare better than poor urban children. However, the mechanisms through which this occurs and the extent of the effects should still be on concern to policymakers.

In the open discussion, many correlated issues of suburban poverty were mentioned. For example, participants raised the issues of the role of concentrated affluence, racial and economic segregation, and the importance of cultural fabric of communities. The session concluded with an agreement that there is much research to be done in this ever-growing field.

 

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