Julian Omidi examines the rising poverty level in the United States, which was recently brought to the nation’s attention by the Brookings Institute.
Did you know that poverty in the United States is spreading? According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institute, poverty, which was once concentrated in metropolitan areas, has moved to the suburbs, and disbursed quite thickly.
In the late seventies and early eighties, cities like Detroit, New York, Baltimore and Oakland were centers of poverty and crime, while the outlying districts were relatively calm and moneyed. Today, while these large cities (with the exception of much of New York, which has undergone a major transformation in the past decade and a half) still have their share of impoverished residents, the suburban areas have additionally begun to deteriorate.
The increase of poverty in areas surrounding industrial cities like Detroit and Milwaukee is understandable, since the factory and manufacturing jobs that kept so many families afloat have all but disappeared in the past thirty years. However, the programs that were centered around struggling individuals and families in the cities are not especially useful to people in more remote districts, since it is very difficult for most people to access these services via public transportation, which is remotely adequate considering the distance between many of the newly impoverished districts and the location of the educational, job, and health programs offered for the purpose of aiding people looking for a way out of poverty.
The demographic of the poor has changed too, according to a map developed by the Urban Institute. There is a dramatic increase in poverty among Hispanic populations outside of the western cities of Las Vegas and Phoenix. Also, there are separate sections of ethnic poor, with African American, Hispanic, Asian and White poor populations remaining isolated in their districts; ethnically mixed underserved populations remaining relatively rare.
Although the poverty level officially remains at a family income of approximately $23,000 or less, new studies show that this indicator doesn’t accurately reflect the variable cost of living throughout the United States. In New York, for example, it is estimated that, for a family of four, an income of $90,000 would barely be adequate in order to cover the basic expenses of food, rent, clothing, and healthcare, while in Simpson County, Mississippi, an income of $45,000 is needed to cover basic needs, with no money left over for savings or security. Both incomes are far above what the federal government defines as the poverty level, and both incomes represent what is needed for survival in the very highest and very lowest cost of living regions.
It is very clear that there is much work that still needs to be done in order to address the dramatic rise in economic instability in the nation. Moreover, it is clear that the prevailing methods need to be rethought if we are to be successful.
By Julian Omidi