Suburban Poverty More than Doubles in Utah’s Major Metro Areas

May 20, 2013

Poverty in US suburbs is on the rise, but especially in Utah. A new book released Monday shows that the number of people living in suburbs below the federal poverty line has more than doubled in three major metropolitan areas in Utah over an 11-year span. In fact, the Salt Lake City area ranked number 3 in the nation for fastest growth in suburban poverty. 

The Brookings Institution’s new book ,“Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” shows that between 2000 and 2011, suburban poverty rose 64 percent - more than twice the growth rate of cities. Lead author Elizabeth Kneebone says the suburbs of three Utah metro areas ranked among the book’s top 15 in terms of fastest-growing poverty.

“The three metropolitan areas in Utah that we looked at in this research are Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo. In each case, the suburban poor population more than doubled in just over the span of 11 years,” Kneebone says.

She couldn’t say why Utah would stand out in this way, but she says suburban poverty is generally driven by the growth of low-wage jobs in suburbs, shifts in affordable housing, and lower income residents being priced out of urban cores. She says in order to address poverty, it’s important to understand where it is and who it’s affecting. 

“The landscape of poverty in America has changed dramatically in recent years, but our perception and our policies for how we address it haven’t kept pace. If we want to make sure that – whether a resident lives in the city or the suburbs - they have access to services, to education, to job opportunities, we need to be aware of how these trends are moving within regions and adapting our systems and policies to address this issue region-wide,” Kneebone says.   

The book recommends the federal government offer a competitive grant program that states could use to improve opportunities across metropolitan areas for housing, education, transportation and jobs.

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