Poverty doubled in Twin Cities suburbs over past decade


As the suburban landscape changes, so has poverty.

The Twin Cities metro area suburbs have one of the highest increases in poor populations in the country, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington D.C.

The number of poor living in Twin Cities suburbs has more than doubled in the past decade to more than 200,000 people.

The study found population increases and unemployment after the 2008 recession as major factors for the increase.

The growth reflects a national trend in which the majority of poor people are now living in suburbs.

Most federal programs fighting poverty haven’t evolved to address the spread out nature of suburban poverty, according to the study.

Tom Luce, a research director for the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, said the institute has known suburbs have outpaced metro poor populations for years and has written extensively on the changing suburban landscape.

“This has been going on for a long time,” Luce said.

He said the high level of poverty in suburbs should be factored into the creation of new policies in the country, like encouraging increased affordable housing and providing more transportation and transit services in suburbs.

Public transportation choices are limited for suburban people who can’t afford cars but need to access medical care, food and jobs, said Rosemary Heins, a University Extension educator.

Despite the major increase in suburban poverty, the Twin Cities suburbs still have one of the lowest suburban poverty rates among major metropolitan areas in the country, with a rate of 7.6 percent in 2010. Almost one in four Twin Cities residents are in poverty.

Luce also said he’s concerned about how the new data could affect future policies in suburbs.

“You don’t want to allow suburbs to pursue policies that effectively zone poor people out,” he said.