A Decade of Mixed Blessings: Urban and Suburban Poverty in Census 2000

August 1, 2002

The national poverty rate fell slightly between 1990 and 2000, but this trend masked sharper increases and decreases in poverty in cities and suburbs, and across different regions of the country. This paper examines poverty rate trends in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas over the 1990s, and finds highly uneven outcomes in a decade of strong economic growth. Overall, city poverty fell slightly, while suburban poverty edged up. Underlying these movements were large regional disparities–poverty rates declined in most midwestern and southern cities, but rose in cities and suburbs throughout New England, New York and southern California. This report speculates on the economic and demographic forces shaping city and suburban poverty trends in the 1990s, and raises questions about the impact of the current economic downturn on metropolitan poverty over the next decade.