A Case Study In Suburban Poverty

Rebecca Burns examines Atlanta’s Cobb County:

Long considered the epitome of red-state suburban comfort, a quintessentially middle-class kind of place where the median income is $65,000 and people pride themselves on owning their own homes, Cobb County now has other superlatives attached to its name. Between 2000 and 2010, the county’s poverty rate doubled to 12 percent. Just last month, the Urban Institute reported that of all counties in the United States, Cobb is where low-income people have the least chance of finding affordable places to live.

This is not an indictment of Cobb County in particular.

Rather, what’s happening in Cobb is a microcosm of the dilemma facing suburbs nationwide: a rapid spike in the number of poor people in what once were the sprawling beacons of American prosperity. Think of it as the flip side of the national urban boom: The poverty rate across all U.S. suburbs doubled in the first decade of the millennium—even as America’s cities are transforming in the other direction, toward rising affluence and hipster reinvention.

“As with just about every Atlanta story,” she adds, traffic is a big part of the problem:

That literal lack of mobility contributes to a bigger problem: Atlanta has one of the lowest rates of economic mobility in the country. … [T]oday in greater Atlanta, the odds of a poor kid making it to the top rung of the economic ladder are lower than any other major metropolitan area in the country—in part because residential segregation, which keeps metro Atlantans separated not only by race but also by class, has created widely disparate public school districts, further immobilizing the poor.

Previous Dish on suburban poverty here and here.