MEDIA RELEASE: Suburban poverty rose dramatically across North Carolina during 2000s

New report finds poor population grew 13 times more in suburbs than urban areas

RALEIGH (August 7, 2012) – Suburban poverty rose sharply during the 2000s, a new report finds, shifting the economic landscape of suburbia in North Carolina.

The number of poor individuals living in the suburbs grew by 40 percent between 2000 and 2006-2010, according to a new report from the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center, with the poverty rate in suburbs reaching 13.2 percent by 2006-2010. Although residents of urban areas are still more likely to be poor than suburban residents, the report said, the suburbs’ poor population grew 13 times more than in urban areas and the number of high-poverty neighborhoods grew more than 4 times faster in the suburbs.

African Americans and Latinos living in the suburbs were 2 to 4 times more likely to be poor than their white counterparts in 2006-10, the report finds, and were also 2 to 4 times more likely to live in high-poverty suburban neighborhoods than whites.

Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 670,000 North Carolinians were pushed into poverty, with the trend of rising poverty hitting suburban areas throughout the state particularly hard. Because urban areas have historically housed the largest number of North Carolinians who are poor, the report said, safety-net programs such as homeless shelters, food and emergency assistance, and job training programs are less robust in suburban areas. National research shows that suburban areas were unprepared to address the rising demand for services during the Great Recession, with the few non-profits located in suburban areas reporting an average 30 percent jump in demand for services.

Given the dramatic and quick shift in suburban areas’ economic landscapes – not to mention the tremendous diversity across suburban neighborhoods – it is crucial to coordinate anti-poverty efforts at the regional level in order to strengthen North Carolina’s economic future, the report said. Coordinating transit planning with affordable-housing policy, for example, could help insure that transit-dependent populations are better connected to employment networks, education opportunities, and social services.

“Addressing the needs of people facing economic hardships and strengthening communities’ safety nets will be critical parts of rebuilding the state’s economy,” said Tazra Mitchell, a fellow with the Budget and Tax Center and author of the report. “By coordinating work across multiple policy areas and across urban and suburban silos, North Carolina can re-build pathways to prosperity for people who are struggling to make ends meet and are cut off from employment and job opportunities.”

The report can be found at this link.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tazra Mitchell, Budget & Tax Center, Public Policy Fellow,, 919.861.1451; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications,, 503.551.3615 (cell).