The Shift in Poverty & How it Affects Nonprofits

Cities and suburbs have very defined roles when it comes to poverty. Research examining poverty related issues are usually inner city-based.  For years, suburbs have been seen as safe neighborhoods with quality school systems and even better jobs. Recent studies have found that poverty has actually become more suburbanized. There has been a shift in poverty and because of this ideology, we have more people uprooting their families to the suburbs in the hopes for a better life. “In 1999, large U.S. cities and their suburbs had roughly equal numbers of poor residents, but by 2008 the number of suburban poor exceeded the poor in central cities by 1.5 million. Although poverty rates remain higher in central cities than in suburbs (18.2 per­cent versus 9.5 percent in 2008), poverty rates have increased at a quicker pace in suburban areas.” The rapid rise of poverty between 2000 and 2015 caused an extensive climb in rural counties.

Now how does this affect nonprofits? Suburban communities are met with the challenge of handling these rapid growths in poverty mainly due to the fact of poor nonprofit infrastructure. The Brookings Institution’s Elizabeth Kneebone said, “The suburban nonprofit safety net tends to be stretched thin, with relatively fewer providers serving larger catchment areas than in cities …That means critical services and wraparound supports that could help poor suburban residents weather periods of economic instability or find and maintain employment may be harder to access or missing. [Among] the large suburban municipalities…more than half lacked a food assistance provider, 61 percent had no registered substance abuse service providers, and 80 percent lacked a registered employment services provider.” There is a gap between nonprofits and federal programs. The approach has historically always been hyper focused in urban areas, focusing on services for cities versus the suburbs.

The population of Fayetteville, NC, as of July 2016 is 204,759 according to the United States Census Bureau. 18.4% of the population in Fayetteville (193,761 people) live below the poverty line, a number that is much higher than the national average of 14%.

For over fifty years, Action Pathways has been providing Fayetteville with a comprehensive and supportive approach for families and individuals that might have hurdles due to poverty, focusing on housing, hunger, education and empowerment. Although knowledge alone cannot alleviate the barriers we as a suburban community might face, it is important to take action with information. We work diligently with our partners and our government to be able to provide more services to our community. It is important you as a citizen are doing your due diligence in ensuring suburban communities are not being overlooked.



The Changing Geography of Poverty is a Challenge to Everyone, Nonprofit Quarterly


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