Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Problems in the burbs

At the risk of alienating readers in the Youngstown burbs, I am often amazed how some (not all) who live in the Mahoning Valley feel that Youngstown's problems aren't their problems. I've seen it consistently in issues ranging from economic development zones to crime and water sharing. The truth of the matter is that crime or economic decay in Youngstown are just as likely to have an effect on Boardman as they are on Fifth Avenue. It may not be a direct, in-your-face effect, but the long term societal and economic factors will still weigh heavily on the suburbs.

Well, I paid the Brookings Institution a lot of money to tell me what I wanted to hear and it turns out that I'm right. In a new study released today, they found that poverty (a problem in Youngstown) is growing at an increased rate in the suburbs compared to their urban center. One lowlight from their report:
  • Led by increasing poverty in auto manufacturing metro areas—like Grand Rapids and Youngstown—Midwestern city and suburban poverty rates climbed 3.0 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively.
Overall, the poverty level in the Youngstown metro area is 33.5 percent, a somewhat shocking number when you consider one in three residents of the Valley lives on $10,830 per year (in single person households; $22,250 for a family of four). Imagine now the rent or mortgage, car payment, food, utilities, and other demands of life in Northeast Ohio (snow shovels!).

From the report, two assumptions can be made. First, as populations shift, poorer people are moving out of the urban areas in the suburbs and second, long term residents of the suburbs are becoming poorer due to changing economies. (It would be false to assume that I first drew these conclusions. The report author made them in a Q&A posted here.)

The 24-page report paints an interesting picture of poverty level of suburbs in America and the changing shift of income levels, particularly looking at the 2007-2008 data at the start of the "Great Recession". If you have ten minutes, it may be worth a read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can see this problem very clearly on the outskirts of Boardman; much of the blight and crime associated with the city has spilled over into the township.