According to a new study released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, there are more poor people living in U.S. suburbs than there are in central cities.
Researchers say between 2000 and 2008 the number of poor people living in suburban areas grew nearly five times faster than the amount of poor people in the central cities.
Brookings researchers say there are now 1.5 million more poor people living in the suburbs than there are in central cities. However, proportionally speaking, poverty is still more prevalent in urban cores.
Brookings researcher Elizabeth Kneebone said the latest findings show that the historic gap between urban and suburban poverty is closing quickly.
"The suburban growth rate in poverty was 25 percent, compared to about 5.6 percent in the primary cities," Kneebone said. "So that's almost five times the rate of growth. And it also outpaces what we saw happening in smaller metro areas and rural areas across the country as well."
The report looks at 95 of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Researchers compared census and census survey data from 2000 and 2008 for each area. Kneebone said Midwestern industrial cities and towns in states like Michigan and Ohio showed the biggest overall increases in poverty -- as well as cities in the west and southwestern U.S. hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis.
Kneebone said people living below the poverty line and outside central cities face a number of problems. Not the least of which are access to vital support services.
"We've traditionally located a lot of our safety net services in urban centers," she said. "So as the poor population increasingly suburbanizes and is spread throughout the region, this really calls for policy and service providers to think at the regional scale."
The Brookings report combines Minneapolis and St. Paul and compares them to 13 surrounding counties, including both Pierce and St. Croix Counties in western Wisconsin.
St. Croix County officials say they've seen a sharp increase in demand for their food share and energy assistance programs. But even though they are miles from the Twin Cities' urban core, St. Croix County has been able to keep up with the demand.
The county's economic support supervisor Mary Squyer, said people don't have to come into her office, in New Richmond, to apply for help. She said people can apply online if they have access to a computer.
"[Or] they can call us on the phone and ask to have the interview done by telephone or they can ask for a mail in," Squyer said. "We'll mail the application to them. They can complete it and mail it back to us."
The Minneapolis/St.Paul area differed from the national trend in that the population of poor people in the cities grew at a faster rate than in the outlying counties. Also, over the last 8 years the number of people living below the poverty line in the Twin Cities grew faster than it did in cities like Chicago and Milwaukee.
And the numbers will not get better anytime soon. Researchers say that due to 2009 unemployment numbers the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area can expect to see a nearly 2 percent increase in its poverty rate.