Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Life in the 'Burbs

There's an article in Newsweek about poverty in the suburbs.

It's strange to read, sitting here in my nice house in Austin, because the article was set in Cleveland. It turns out that for the first time, more people are living below the poverty line in Suburbs than in cities.

The suburbs are an anomaly, historically. An artifact of cars, cheap gas, and the post WWII boom in babies. They are sustained only by enormous and mostly invisible infrastructure. Gas prices kept artificially low, in particular. The suburbs, more so than the city, are rather libertarian. Pay or sink. If you lose your car, there's relatively little bus service. There aren't many free clinics, or food pantries. Social services can't cluster because suburbs are spread out. And social services tend to be run on the thinnest of shoestring budgets, so the go where they get the most bang for their buck--the cities.

Which means that we are looking at a new class of working poor. They don't look as if they are going to get much help. When they lose their homes, I wonder where they will end up?


Blogger Jarvis Rockhall said...

I've read in a couple of places that the population of the US is expected to double by 2050.

If the suburbs are really failing lower income workers then does this mean that the population increase will have to be absorbed by expanding the cities?

I've also read predictions which suggest that the population of Europe will start decreasing from around 2030 onwards.
Do you think that the extra population could encourage mass emmigration back to the old-world?

Don't you think it would be ironic if people left for Europe and its welfare system in order to escape poverty in the US?

I know that this isn't related directly to your post but...

I just wanted to say that China Mountain Zhang is a fantastic book.
I discovered it a few years ago on a wet afternoon in the libary.
The section where Zhang is forced to go to Baffin island was the best thing I'd read in quite a while.

February 09, 2007 3:29 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Jarvis, thank you! I'm glad you liked Zhang.

I think it would be highly ironic if people left the US to go back to Europe, or to go to Japan where they are looking at a labor shortage because of an ageing population. They are afraid there will not be enough people to take care of elders.

Right now, a lot of our service workers (nursing home attendants for example) are immigrants. The idea of poor Americans working in German, French and Japanese nursing homes is a ver science fictional one, isn't it.

February 09, 2007 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an interesting article last December on CNN on-line. In Germany in January they started a program to give couples having babies money to make it easier for them to have families as their population shrinks.

During the last few weeks of December, women who were expecting to deliver before funds started up in January were trying to delay their births a couple of weeks or days so they could get some of the money. It would make a difference if $10 to $15K if the baby was born in January.


February 10, 2007 4:07 PM  
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^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 24, 2009 2:25 AM  

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