by user Docsplice
According to a Newsweek article, those who have fled the cities for the suburbs are grappling with the devastating income equality of the Bush economy:
Once prized as a leafy haven from the social ills of urban life, the suburbs are now grappling with a new outbreak of an old problem: poverty. Currently, 38 million Americans live below the poverty line, which the federal government defines as an annual income of $20,000 or less for a family of four. But for the first time in history, more of America's poor are living in the suburbs than the cities—1.2 million more, according to a 2005 survey. "The suburbs have reached a tipping point," says Brookings Institution analyst Alan Berube, who compiled the data. For example, five years ago, a Hunger Network food pantry in Bedford Heights, a struggling suburb of Cleveland, served 50 families a month. Now more than 700 families depend on it for food.
This defies the stereotype that the poor in America are only represented among minorities, but you wouldn't know it judging from the debate about raising the minimum wage. I have emphasized in earlier posts that the recent raise is painfully inadequate, a point supported by an economist interviewed in this article:
Bills upping the hourly rate from $5.15 to $7.25 by 2009 have passed both the House and the Senate. But analysts at the Economic Policy Institute, a D.C.-based think tank, say that while some 4.5 million suburbanites will benefit from a minimum-wage hike, it's not enough. "It's not a living wage, it's a minimum wage," says EPI senior economist Jared Bernstein, who says there's still a yawning gap between what people earn and what it costs to live that must be addressed.
The article also describes the suburban poor as "invisible" but omits exploration of a racial dimension to this invisiblity:
Suburban poverty can also be invisible. Poor people who live in the city tend to be concentrated in subsidized housing or in neighborhoods where the rent is low, which in turn attract retail businesses that target customers with low incomes. Poor suburbanites often live in the same ZIP codes as their affluent neighbors, shop at the same stores and send their children to the same public school. And if people don't see themselves as poor, they often don't seek the help they need.
The ability of a poor white family to blend into an affluent white suburb and therefore take advantage of superior schools and social services is representative of white privilege. More importantly, our inability to discuss poverty without racializing it contributes to the invisibility of the suburban poor, and as such, it does them no favors.