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Confronting Suburban Poverty in America

Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube

Publication Year: 2013

It has been nearly a half century since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. Back in the 1960s tackling poverty "in place" meant focusing resources in the inner city and in rural areas. The suburbs were seen as home to middle- and upper-class families —affluent commuters and homeowners looking for good schools and safe communities in which to raise their kids. But today's America is a very different place. Poverty is no longer just an urban or rural problem, but increasingly a suburban one as well. In Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube take on the new reality of metropolitan poverty and opportunity in America.

After decades in which suburbs added poor residents at a faster pace than cities, the 2000s marked a tipping point. Suburbia is now home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country and more than half of the metropolitan poor. However, the antipoverty infrastructure built over the past several decades does not fit this rapidly changing geography. As Kneebone and Berube cogently demonstrate, the solution no longer fits the problem.

The spread of suburban poverty has many causes, including shifts in affordable housing and jobs, population dynamics, immigration, and a struggling economy. The phenomenon raises several daunting challenges, such as the need for more (and better) transportation options, services, and financial resources. But necessity also produces opportunity —in this case, the opportunity to rethink and modernize services, structures, and procedures so that they work in more scaled, cross-cutting, and resource-efficient ways to address widespread need. This book embraces that opportunity.

Kneebone and Berube paint a new picture of poverty in America as well as the best ways to combat it. Confronting Suburban Poverty in America offers a series of workable recommendations for public, private, and nonprofit leaders seeking to modernize poverty alleviation and community development strategies and connect residents with economic opportunity. The authors highlight efforts in metro areas where local leaders are learning how to do more with less and adjusting their approaches to address the metropolitan scale of poverty —for example, integrating services and service delivery, collaborating across sectors and jurisdictions, and using data-driven and flexible funding strategies.

"We believe the goal of public policy must be to provide all families with access to communities, whether in cities or suburbs, that offer a high quality of life and solid platform for upward mobility over time. Understanding the new reality of poverty in metropolitan America is a critical step toward realizing that goal." —from Chapter One

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Front Cover

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p. 1-1

Inside Flap

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pp. 2-5

Title Page

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p. 6-6

Copyright Information

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p. 7-7

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

In January 1964 President Lyndon Johnson spoke to Congress and the American people to announce that the United States was declaring a war against poverty: “It will not be a short or easy struggle,” said Johnson. “No single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. ...

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pp. xi-xiv

We first got into the issue of suburban poverty by accident. We came to the Metropolitan Policy Program to study the social issues facing cities and regions, most notably poverty, and to advance public policy that addresses them. Both of us were motivated to pursue this line of work by journalists such as Alex Kotlowitz ...

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1. Poverty and the Suburbs: An Introduction

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pp. 1-12

Drive about forty-five miles east of San Francisco, tracing a route across the Bay Bridge, through the Caldecott Tunnel outside Oakland, past the wealthy suburbs of central Contra Costa County, and along the California Delta Highway that eventually leads to the state’s Central Valley. ...

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2. Suburban Poverty, by the Numbers

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pp. 13-36

Lakewood, Ohio, hugs the city of Cleveland’s northwest border. It is an architecturally diverse community. Some of its 50,000-plus residents live in Tudor homes in beautiful neighborhoods along Lake Erie. Others live in high-rise apartment buildings in the city’s nearby Gold Coast section. ...

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3. Behind the Numbers: What's Driving Suburban Poverty?

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pp. 37-54

The communities of South King County, Washington, inhabit the shadows of one of the nation’s leading economic lights: Seattle. Yet some of the most intense demographic and economic changes happening in America today are occurring in those shadows. ...

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4. The Implications of Suburban Poverty

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pp. 55-76

On Pittsburgh’s eastern border lies the suburban city of Penn Hills, the second-largest community in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Penn Hills came of age in the mid-twentieth century as a middle-class bedroom community for workers and managers at the nearby Westinghouse Electric Company, among other once-significant Pittsburgh-area firms. ...

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5. Fighting Today's Poverty with Yesterday's Policies

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pp. 77-95

Chicago, America’s “second city,” has been getting a second look recently, with the election in 2011 of its first new mayor in more than two decades, the emergence of more of its corporations on the global stage, and the 2012 reelection of one of its own as president of the United States. ...

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6. Innovating Locally to Confront Suburban Poverty

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pp. 96-112

Montgomery County, Maryland—a suburban county adjacent to the nation’s capital—consistently ranks among the country’s wealthiest counties. In 2010, it ranked twelfth in the nation for median household income at more than $89,000, well above the $50,000 national median. ...

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7. Modernizing the Metropolitan Opportunity Agenda

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pp. 113-144

In November 2011, a group of representatives from local organizations met in Bay Point, California, one of the Cities of Carquinez at the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area. All of the participants, who included professionals in workforce development, homelessness and hunger prevention, legal aid, human services, philanthropy, and community organizing, ...


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pp. 145-160


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pp. 161-170

Back Cover

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p. 191-191

E-ISBN-13: 9780815723912
E-ISBN-10: 0815723911
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815725800

Page Count: 169
Publication Year: 2013