Poverty in American suburbs increased sharply in the past decade and left local social-service providers struggling to keep up with increased needs, according to two reports released Thursday by the Brookings Institution.
One report by the Washington think tank, called “Strained Suburbs,” examines the pressures on nonprofit organizations in the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington that are losing revenue, reducing the number of their employees, and finding themselves less able to help people in their communities.
“In the wake of the Great Recession, demand is up significantly for the typical suburban provider, and almost three-quarters (73 percent) of suburban nonprofits are seeing more clients with no previous connection to safety-net programs,” the report says.
“Needs have changed as well,” the report continues, “with nearly 80 percent of suburban nonprofits surveyed seeing families with food needs more often than one year prior, and nearly 60 percent reporting more frequent requests for help with mortgage or rent payments.”
Many Losing Revenue
The report notes that although the number of poor people has grown in record numbers during the past decade, money for social-service programs over the past 40 years has “primarily targeted urban areas, where poverty has been most concentrated and persistent.”
Thus, the report says, “the capacity of suburban safety-net and nonprofit service providers has likely lagged behind the dramatic demographic changes that have caught many of these communities by surprise.”
Forty-seven percent of suburban nonprofits that were surveyed said they had suffered a loss last year in a key revenue source, the report says, and anticipated more financial reductions in the coming year.
The bad economy “has weakened both public and philanthropic sources of revenue, as well as individual donations, depressing funding for many nonprofit organizations right as demand for services increased,” the report says.
A second Brookings publication, “The Great Recession and Poverty in Metropolitan America,” says that, since 2007, suburban residents accounted for more than 37 percent of the increase in the number of poor people living in the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.