Suburbia: Where the poor are

15.4 million Americans living in poverty are in the suburbs, far outnumbering impoverished city dwellers.

By , Guest blogger

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    The Vets Park neighborhood in Culver City, Calif. 15.4 million people living in poverty now live in the suburbs, according to the Brookings Institute.
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The U.S. government has done all it can to promote home ownership, clustering over-indebted Americans together out in the lush green suburbs behind white picket fences. But, what was once the American dream is now where 15.4 million people living below the poverty level reside, according to the Brookings Institute.

Those living in poverty in America’s cities totaled 12.7 million last year. “We think of poverty as a really urban or ultra-rural phenomenon, but it’s not,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, senior research associate at Brookings. “It’s increasingly a suburban issue.”

The housing crash brought poverty to suburbia like never before. “The collapse of the housing market caused the ranks of the poor to spike in Sun Belt communities, such as those surrounding Lakeland, Fla., and Riverside, Calif,” writes Tami Luhby for CNNMoney. “Many low-income people had moved there during the boom to make money building and caring for homes or working in the retailers and restaurants that cropped up to service the new residents.”

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Suburban housing tracts don’t look like slums yet, “But behind closed doors, there are increasing numbers of people who don’t have jobs, their retirement nest eggs are gone and they can’t meet their mortgage payments,” says Donna Cooper, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

But the poverty will burst out into the open when hundreds of municipalities go broke and the next financial meltdown shoe drops.

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