Brookings Institute finds poverty has decreased in the US, but not for everyone
A recent study by the Brookings Institute on poverty last year shows that for the 4th year in a row, overall poverty numbers in America are falling. The catch, however, is that the decline isn’t spread evenly.
Across the 29 major metropolitan areas covered by the study, poverty seems to be dropping in both Southern and Midwestern areas, but pockets of deep poverty remain in places like Memphis, Fresno, and Youngstown.
In New Orleans, poverty actually increased, from 17% in 2016 to 18.6% in 2017. 22,000 people were added to the poor population of the city.
Brookings found that the driver of most of the overall poverty decrease is a decline in central cities, while the poverty rates in surrounding suburbs have generally remained steady over the same period of time.
Despite this, city residents were still more likely to be living in poverty than their suburban counterparts, but the data indicated that this gap is slowly narrowing.
One reason given for the limited number of people who have worked their way out of poverty is stagnant wages. Over the last 40 years, real wages have shrunk for those at the bottom, but increased as much as 27% for those at the top.
The data does not break down their statistical analysis by race, but we can reasonably infer based on some cities who are still struggling with poverty that this gap is detrimental mostly to communities of color.
Atlanta, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee, which are homes to thriving populations of Black people, are a few of the major metropolitan areas that did not experience very much reduced poverty in 2017.
The Brookings Institute notes that instead of looking to cut social safety net programs like SNAP, which has worked to lift 3.4 million people out of poverty in 2017; legislators should be looking at where people are being left out of poverty decreases and increase efforts in those places.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering changes to SNAP which are likely to be detrimental to workers, with poorly thought out work requirements and undue verification systems.