Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Changing Geography Of Poverty

When most Americans think of poverty, the first images that usually come to mind are sprawling urban jungles.  Rarely do we ever think of severe poverty taking place in our seemingly perfect suburbs.  Yet according to recent data cited in an article in The New Republic, there are currently more poor people living in the suburbs of major cities. 

The TNR piece doesn't necessarily tackle why this is happening, but it does examine the role philanthropic organizations play in addressing this new "geography" of poverty.  The article cites a study by Sarah Reckhow and Margaret Weir that examined the suburbs of four major American cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and Detroit.  The major finding of their report was that charitable organizations were not well equipped to deal with this geographic shift in poverty.  This has happened for a number of reasons, though I found the most interesting to be donor preferences.  As I hinted at in the opening paragraph, many people still see poverty as an urban problem.  As a result, it seems many donors prefer to send their money to areas that would seem to be prime areas for homelessness.

In addition, the Reckhow and Weir report revealed that there are very few well-funded philanthropic foundations in suburban areas.  Perhaps the most telling issue, however, is that many suburban communities are simply unwilling to support new programs that would help fight poverty.  That seems unfathomable, but it is a reality. 

If you have the time, you should read the rest of this piece in The New Republic.  We would love to hear your thoughts on the issue of poverty in the suburbs.  Have you seen a distinct lack of philanthropic support in your communities?  What steps do you think should be taken to make this issue more well known?

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