Former Haves Becoming Have Nots in Suburbia

Oct 19, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The story is becoming all too familiar in the land of perfectly manicured lawns, two car garages, cable television and high-speed Internet access. There are poor people living in middle class suburbia.

A USA Today report says that the numbers of poor, primarily working poor, in the suburbs is catching up with cities as individuals find themselves squeezed out of the decent paying job market and having to deal with the high costs of keeping a roof over their head and gas in minivan’s tank.

While parts of the middle class are finding themselves falling into poverty, others are moving up to more affluent digs. The result, says the Brookings Institution, is a more polarized economic picture.

Based on government figures, the percentage of people living in middle-income neighborhoods went from 75 percent in 1980 down to 61 percent in 2000. Recent reports suggest, if anything, the trend has further accelerated in recent years.

Moderator’s Comments: How will (is) the changing economic face of the suburbs affect retail?

It’s become fashionable to talk about the affluent going on treasure hunting trips to dollar stores that are now being built in their communities. We suspect
that a growing number of these consumers are going on these strips out of necessity and not simply as a form of shopping entertainment.

George Anderson – Moderator

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