Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty
Articles,  Blog

Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty

Let’s go ahead and get started. And welcome to
today’s conversation on Scott Allard’s new
book, Places in Need– The Changing
Geography of Poverty. I’m Susan Moffit. I’m the director of the Taubman
Center for American Politics and Policy. And this year the Taubman Center
is focusing on three themes– the cost of living, the value
of democracy, and the price of security. And Scott’s work speaks
very nicely to these themes with his close look at the
rise of suburban poverty over the last 25 years,
and the challenges that suburban communities
are having as they try to address the rising poverty. He writes, “There
are more poor people in the suburbs of the largest
American metropolitan areas than in the cities.” But despite the growth of
suburban poverty, he finds– and I quote again– “suburban organizations struggle
to overcome local perception gaps about poverty
problems, which translate into limited local
political will and capacity to act.” So I’m delighted that
Scott is with us here tonight to discuss these
findings and the mechanisms at work. Scott is the Daniel J
Evans endowed Professor of Social Policy at the
Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the
University of Washington. He’s an expert on social policy,
urban policy, and inequality. He is also the co-director of
the Family Self-sufficiency Data Center at the
University of Chicago, and is a nonresidential
senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. And we were very fortunate to
have him as a faculty member here at Brown between
2003 and 2008. Welcome back, Scott. Thank you. We miss you. Come more often. With some hair. Come with my hair here. [LAUGHTER] We’re pleased that Professor
Margaret Weir and Professor Michael White are joining us to
discuss Scott’s book tonight. Unfortunately, Professor
Roberto Gonzales from Harvard University is
unable to join us tonight. We look forward to having
Professor Gonzales join us at another time soon. Margaret is the Wilson Professor
of International and Public Affairs and Political Science
here at Brown University. She is an expert in social
policy, urban policy, and politics. She has published
extensively on social safety nets, regionalism, and poverty,
and the new metropolis. Thanks for coming, Margaret. Michael White is the Robert E
Turner Distinguished Professor of Population Studies
here at Brown. He’s also a professor
of sociology and the director
of the Initiative in Spatial Structures
in the Social Sciences. He is published extensively on
urban residential segregation, on rural urban migration
in developing societies, and on contemporary
international migration and immigrant assimilation. Thank you, Michael. So our time together is going
to unfold in the following way. Scott will begin by giving us
a brief overview of his book. And then Margaret
and Michael will follow with about 15
minutes of comments each. And then we’ll open the
floor to your questions. And then I would invite you
all to join us in the reception afterwards. And I’m sure Scott would like
you to buy his book, which will be for sale out there, as well. So would you now
please join me in very warmly welcoming Scott,
and Margaret, and Michael. [APPLAUSE] Thanks for that
awesome introduction. I am really humbled to be here. I want to thank Susan
for organizing this, and Margaret and Mike for
sitting on the panel today. Susan and I have been
friends for a long time. And our conversations
have shaped my intellectual development. And Mike and Margaret, both
as individuals and scholars, have been great mentors
to me over time. And a lot of what I do
is a reflection of things that I’ve learned from them. And so I appreciate that. I want to thank the
staff at Taubman– Matt and Michelle who
helped me today, and helped organize this. And it’s really great
being back here. This book emerged, actually,
as an idea while I was here. And Brown was a really
supportive place. And John and S4 were huge
in that early development in the Taubman Center
and political science. It’s such a treat
to be back here. I left for the University of
Chicago from here in 2008, and I am a poverty scholar. And I used to think,
because I grew up in a low-income
household, that that made me certified to talk about
poverty problems in America. And then I worked in the South
Side of Chicago for many years. And I was always aware
of white male privilege and what that meant. I thought I was, at least. But I think that experience,
living on the South Side and working in the South
Side, made me more aware of things that I didn’t always
understand or appreciate. And it made me aware that
there were privileges I experienced that I’m not even
aware of, if that makes sense. I think research
and commentary that informs policy is a form
of power and privilege. And what I want you to hear
today is a story about how poverty has changed, how it
challenges our stereotypes about poverty– often pernicious racial
stereotypes about poverty– that undermine how we
support communities in need of all kinds, of all contexts. And the goal, hopefully, of
this work and the conversation is to provide evidence and
narratives that ensure we can build safety nets
and opportunities that are more responsive to the
needs of low-income Americans, regardless of where
they live, or regardless of their racial or
ethnic identity. And so that’s kind of
an overriding goal, and important for me
to say at the outset. As the book
outlines, I start out by talking about what the
conventional spatial discourse around poverty in America, and
the common way, as citizens, as scholars, as
journalists, we think about poverty as an urban
problem– an urban phenomenon. And we think of suburbs,
ideally, as the American dream. Places of opportunity,
places where people work, and have
happy lives, and homes, and children that go to
school, and are successful, and all these kind of tropes
of the American dream. And you see this
reflected in our research. This is a chart. It’s just a heuristic. It’s not super scientific. It’s JStar article counts. The top line is the
number of articles that have the word “urban,”
“city,” “inner city,” a variety of things, and
“poverty” in the same article. And you can see, there’s
thousands of them. This is consistent with
the focus of scholars on urban poverty,
concentrated poverty, racially-segregated poverty
in cities– problems that have been persistent
in the post-war era. And at the bottom, you see the
count of articles that actually don’t talk about suburban
poverty, but actually just had the word “suburb” and
“poverty,” or “suburban” and “poverty,” in
the same article. Not on the same page, not
in the same paragraph. But just anywhere in the text. And you just see that,
even from this count, even scholarship doesn’t
really talk about poverty outside of cities very much. And our news coverage is
very much the same way. This is the same exercise
looking at newspaper and magazine articles. Over time, you see that, again,
whether it’s our scholarship or in our media coverage,
we associate poverty with the urban. Moreover, we associate
it with persons of color. So part of the spatial discourse
around poverty in America is a conversation
about urban poverty that we, in our popular mind,
associate with people of color. And suburban
opportunity is something that we associate with white
affluence or white homogeneity. As I showed you, I think
it informs scholarship. It guides our media. It underlies our popular
impressions of poverty. And it shapes our policy
rhetoric, debate, and tools. And the presidential campaign in
2016 highlights this, I think, very well. Where we had a
candidate that ran around talking about
burned-out urban centers, violent places where people
of color live, and perpetuated stereotypes. That’s not to say that there
isn’t racially segregated and concentrated
poverty in cities. It’s just that it’s not that
simple or straightforward. In the book, I argue
that this discourse, in addition to being a false
narrative demographically– which I’ll show
you in a second– it promotes biased
understandings of poverty. It fosters notions of
poverty that poverty problems are for others. Whether they’re people
who look different than us or who live in
different places, it contributes to the
othering of poverty. It overlooks key
trends and questions. And ultimately, the fact
that we link place, and race, and poverty in our
popular mindset undermines support
for the safety net. Undermines local support for
local solutions, in particular. And so I’ll give you a few data
points, and then we’ll open up. And actually, the
conversation here is perfect. I’m continuing to write
from this material. And so the learning that
I will do with you today will inform future work. This is a part of a chart that
sits at the center of the book. It’s the trend in the number of
poor people in the largest 100 metropolitan areas, from 1990 on
the left to 2014 on the right. And what you see
is that, in 2014, the dark line are suburbs, and
the purple line is our cities. And you see that there are
4 million more poor people in the suburbs of our largest
metros in 2014 than in cities. What you also see is
that the tipping point happens differently in
different metro areas. In Seattle, where I live
now, the tipping point happened sometime in the ’70s. In Chicago, it happened sometime
closer to the Great Recession. But the tipping point
happens at some point in many metro areas
in recent years, where the number of
poor people in suburbs exceeds the number
in the cities. But if we go back to 1990– and again, in our
largest 100 metro areas– we see that there are
almost as many poor people in suburbs of our largest
metros as in cities themselves. And if we think about where we
were in intellectual history, this was a moment when we were
reading William Julius Wilson, and talking about
the urban underclass. And we were thinking about
patterns of segregation in cities. All very important issues. All pressing policy concerns. But suburban poverty was a blind
spot in that moment, as well. We think of the trend
in suburban poverty often as being something that’s
relatively new or recent. But as I argue in the book, and
I think this table highlights, it’s a relatively
new phenomenon. Now, oftentimes we’ll think
that poverty in suburbs is a function of
mobility or migration. People from the city moving out. Whether it’s due to housing
development changes or housing vouchers, historic
patterns of migration. And that’s true to some degree. But the rate of
change in the number of poor people in our
suburbs is three times the population growth rate. And so that means to me– and I think the evidence
bears this out– that it’s not just about migration. This is about people in
suburbs becoming poor in place. And in the book,
I argue that this reflects changes in
the labor market, changes in labor
market opportunity, changes in work
earnings for those without advanced
training, as well as the reality of immigration
and migration from cities. But I think this story
here is largely economic. It’s important to note
that the fact that we have more poor people in
suburbs hasn’t eliminated poverty in cities, right? Poverty problems in cities– at this point in
time in this table– are as high or as significant
as they’ve ever been. Poverty rates are near
historic highs in 2014. And even though
we’ve made progress, are still well
above what we would think of as a historical level. And poverty rates
remain twice as high in cities as in suburbs. If we were to focus only
on increase in poverty in cities in this
time period, we’d have more problems than
we could deal with. So one of the things
that’s important to convey is, even though poverty
is increased in suburbs, this hasn’t resulted
or corresponded to a decrease in
poverty in cities. And similarly, poverty increases
have occurred similarly in suburban areas across
race and ethnic groups. This isn’t a story about
Hispanic Americans, or Hispanic immigrants to the
US only, or black Americans. It’s a story about all race
and ethnic groups experiencing greater need, greater
hardship, greater poverty in suburban America. And one of the reasons
I focus on counts here is we often think
about poverty rates. And that’s an important metric
for considering the issue. But when you start to
think about numbers, you start to think
about the realities that community-based
organizations and the safety net have to confront. When a school district
experiences an increase in the number of kids
with special needs, or on free and reduced
lunch, where it increases by 500 kids in a
short period of time, that’s a pretty big change
for a school district. And when a food pantry sees
the number of people seeking help double or triple in
a short window of time, that’s significant. And poverty rates often
gloss over that, and gloss over the challenges that the
safety net is confronted with. And so I spent time in the book
talking about poverty rates. I talk about concentrated
poverty, deep poverty. The trends are very similar. But I think the
numerical count matters. So I’m going to gloss
over this a little bit. But in the book, I talk
about how the safety net– we could think about it as
being core public assistance programs, like the Earned
Income Tax Credit, SNAP or food stamps, Medicaid, TANF,
welfare cash assistance often targeted at
single-parent families. These programs total roughly
about $200 billion a year. But alongside that are
a localized network of community-based nonprofits
that deliver probably closer to, I would guess,
probably about $100 billion a year of assistance to
low-income households. Whether it’s through emergency
assistance housing, employment services, behavioral health– publicly funded, but
primarily delivered through these local
community-based nonprofits. And what we end up having
is then two safety nets. You have a federally-funded
regulated safety net that often does vary by place. But some programs vary
more by place than others. And I’ll talk about
that in a second. But then we have a local
safety net, often composed of community-based
nonprofits, that provides a lot of
critical assistance to help families who
fall through the cracks of eligibility, or have
temporary losses of earnings or work. These are the programs that
are really critical in a work first safety net environment,
which we exist in, where there’s expectations
that low-income families will work to qualify for benefits. In the book, I argue
that different programs are going to be differently
responsive to the geography of poverty. And I’ll focus here on
the Earned Income Tax Credit and SNAP. These are two
federally-funded programs. The Earned Income Tax Credit
provides refunds and credits to low income households, and
is one of our most effective anti-poverty programs. And SNAP provides
food assistance to low income families, as well. These are federally
financed and funded. That’s the same
thing, it turns out. Federally regulated. And so you’ll get the same
benefit or the same program in different places. This is a much more
localized system, and reflects local
community political will, local interests, local capacity. And so I just have a couple of
slides to motivate this point. The safety net
response of the EITC is fairly common
across geographies. So this is the
median EITC refund per filer across
urban, suburban, and rural counties in blue. So I threw in rural
here, because it’s important to make sure we’re
thinking about the safety net across different
geographic contexts at times. And even though the
bars look different, you’ll notice that
the average refund is about the same– a little
over $2,100, almost $2,200 per filer. The EITC is really responsive
to the changing geography of low-wage work and poverty. Case loads increase
almost with a 1 to 1 ratio to increases in poverty. And the same is true
for SNAP or food stamps. And these are scatterplots. Here I just have urban
counties on the left and suburban counties
on the right. And this is a scatterplot
that shows the percentage change in caseload
on the vertical axis, to the percentage change
in the number of people near or below the poverty
level on the bottom axis. And this is a
tightly-clumped, dense cloud of points in each case. [? I’m trying to ?] understand. [LAUGHTER] I have no idea. This. You know, it’s funny. At the University of Chicago, I
would get hassled all the time like that. I didn’t realize I had to
have Siri come and do that. I suspect that Siri was
speaking for a lot of us, then. So there’s a line to
these cloud of points. And again, the correlation
between SNAP case load increases and changes in need
are very tight and consistent across geography. It doesn’t really
matter where you live. SNAP is responsive to rising
poverty and rising need. Other public programs
are less responsive. But I want to
turn, with the time I have, to talk about
social services, because they’re such a critical
element of our safety net, and often overlooked,
not only by scholars, but by policymakers. So this chart here shows
you nonprofit human service expenditures. The median nonprofit
human service expenditure per low-income
person– again, defined as 150% of federal poverty. And I show you in 2000
and 2010, just because I had the data to do that. And what you see is
that, in urban counties, we spend about
eight times as much as we do in suburban counties. It’s true in 2000 and 2010. If you think about
this, this is what we have for all human
services for a person. So this is food pantries,
employment, behavioral health. And anybody who works
in human services will tell you that $800 is
not enough to do anything for anyone, let alone
$106 per person, which you have in suburbs, or in
rural communities, very little. In fact, about a quarter
of all rural communities have virtually no human
service providers at all, underscoring the challenges. Our human service safety net
has been almost exclusively concentrated in cities. And if you work in
cities, you know you don’t have enough
resources, but there’s a real gap in capacity in
suburbs, where poverty has been rising rapidly,
and where poverty rates, in many communities, are
approaching what we might think of as city, or the
kind of poverty rates that would be consistent with
urban settings or stereotypes about urban settings. And the other thing to note is
that the social services safety net is not responsive
to changes in poverty. This is the same
kind of chart where I have the percentage change
in nonprofit social service expenditures, and then changes
in poverty on the bottom. And these are essentially a
random scattering of points. Poverty goes up. Sometimes your county
does more, sometimes your county does less. Poverty goes down. Sometimes your county spends
more, sometimes it spends less. There’s no real
relationship between changes in need and human
service provision in urban or suburban counties. And this is shocking
and alarming, because this is the glue that
holds the safety net together. These are the programs,
whether they’re in community-based nonprofits
or faith-based organizations, that people trust
and turn to for help. And it matters
that we don’t have a system that’s
responsive to the shifting geography of poverty. Why is that the case? I can– and perhaps
Q&A will allow me– to give you some stories. Part of it is that
there’s limited capacity– both public and private
capacity in suburbs. Poverty, because
poverty has never been perceived to be
a suburban problem, we don’t have the
capacity, or resources, or the organizations in place. And that matters. And so maybe, if we come
together in 10 more years, we’ll have a different story. And likely we will. And in fact, I was talking to
Margaret and Susan earlier, and you can see the needle
moving in some communities. I was in a community in
Chicago a few weeks ago that’s really seen an uptick in
their nonprofit human service capacity over the last decade. There are issues of
fragmentation and distance in suburban communities
that are problematic. If you’re a food bank executive
director, and you’re in a city, you deal with the city. But if you’re a food
bank executive director, and you’re operating
in a suburban region, you might deal with
300 municipalities, and a dozen counties,
and 27 school districts. It’s a much more difficult
enterprise to coordinate. Suburbs have limited
economies of scale, which means some
programs are just not feasible to deliver, or to
deliver in an accessible manner. And there’s a lot of NIMBYism
and competitive pressures. And one of the stories
that I tell in the book is how a school district
in one of my study sites was having a food pantry
for low-income families. And the families lined
up outside the door early in the morning before they
opened the food pantry. And they lined around the block. And a county council
member came and said to the principal, what
are we doing here? Why we have all these
poor people here? This is telling people the
wrong story about our community. We don’t want people to think
that we have poverty problems. And the principal is like,
these are the parents of our children in our school. This isn’t like– we didn’t
ship these people in. These are our neighbors. And he just didn’t
want to see it. And he said, shut it down. We don’t to do this anymore. There’s this perception that
if you have a poverty problem, it’s going to be hard to
be competitive for economic opportunity, or maybe house
prices will take a hit, and there’s a lot of NIMBYism. That’s tied, in many
ways, to racial prejudice, and discrimination, and
anti-immigrant sentiment. And I have lot of
examples in the book that tie to this point. But there’s one example that
stands out where a provider– I went to visit this human
service organization. And on the front of the
building they had posters. And they looked like– kind
of guys like me with hair. Like white men,
white women, getting help with computer training
and job search assistance. And then you go
in, and everything is in Spanish language. And they’re serving
primarily ESL population. And I said to the
executive director, wow. Your outward face is really
different than what’s happening inside. And she said, if we
actually were outward-facing with our client
population, we probably would get defunded
by the county. We might have picketers
and protesters. We couldn’t do our work, except
on the down low like this. That [? kind of ?] is pretty
powerful, and striking, and not an unusual or isolated incident. And then, because we
don’t think of poverty as a suburban reality,
people think of the problems as being for other
people to take care of. And one of the
realities, when you go into suburban
communities, people will talk about the poverty
problems in their communities sometimes. And when they do, they
often will say, well, that urban part of our
suburban community over there. By that, they’re
saying, these aren’t people that are part of us. We’re not responsible for them. And when you think
about it, suburbs were created to be
places of exclusion. And it makes sense at some level
that they don’t see inclusion as being something
that is known to them. I’m happy to talk about this. I want to give time to
Susan, Mike, and Margaret. A couple of key things here. One, this work is
important because we need to challenge the
stereotypes about poverty and its causes, and change
the dynamic– change the conversation,
change the dialogue. We need to think
about ways to have new voices and new
questions in this space– that we’re asking questions
about poverty and place that are relevant to
the communities today, and not the way that we think
communities are composed, or maybe the history of
how we think about this. We need to support
public programs. This is not a time to
cut federal funding for anti-poverty programs. In fact, it’s a time
to expand our programs and create greater
support for programs that work across different
kinds of geographic context. We need to prepare the
next generation of leaders, and the next generation
of indigenous leaders, who understand how important
it is to flip scripts– or who have to flip scripts
as they work with policymakers and their home communities. We need to support
them to give them the toolkit that they need. But also, we need
to support them so they can do
the work that they know is important for their
communities, and not presume that we have a sense
from our positions that we know what’s best. And then finally, we need
to choose a shared fate. Ultimately, if we
don’t see poverty as a problem that affects all
people in all communities– all our friends,
relatives, and families– we won’t create
a safety net that works for anybody in any place. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] OK, it’s a great pleasure to
be able to comment on Scott’s really fantastic new book. I found this book to be a major
contribution to understanding where low-income people
live in metro America, but also why it matters
where people live. And so in my comments, I want
to highlight and raise questions about the two major
parts of the book. So the first thing is, and one
of the central contributions of the book is, that it provides
a really in-depth and precise look at suburban poverty. We know that since
2006 that– or is it 2000– more low
income people live in the suburbs and the city. And especially
during the recession, there were a lot
of news articles about that it’s not the
Ozzie and Harriet suburbs. I bet a lot of you don’t know
who Ozzie and Harriet are. But that’s an old TV show
about some white middle-class suburbs. But Scott’s book,
Places in Needs, takes us a lot further
than previous work has. And it does so in
a variety of ways. And so I want to give you
a sense of what those are– what I took away. So one of them is
that poverty is not just growing in inner suburbs. So people often
think, well, it’s just the suburb– it’s just
overflowing from the city. It’s not throughout. But his is this careful– I mean, he’s measured
in many different ways. It’s super sophisticated work. And he shows that
it is throughout the metropolitan area, and
throughout the suburbs. It’s on the far
reaches of the suburbs. And so it is not
something that’s just right next to the city. It’s spread throughout
suburban areas. I’m going to say a little
more about suburban poverty. But I also really
want to emphasize that one thing I think
you do really well is to also emphasize. We can’t lose sight of the fact
that urban poverty continues to be an enormous problem,
and recognizing the fact that suburban poverty exists. We have to hold two
ideas in our mind– that urban poverty continues
to be an enormous issue, even as suburban poverty has grown. So I think, unlike a lot
of other work, especially the journalistic stuff,
you do an excellent job of keeping that together. Scott emphasizes
that suburban poverty stems from the same
sources as urban poverty. It’s not like– there’s so
much discourse about culture of poverty in the
cities, and well, it must be different
in the suburbs, and a racialized vision
of poverty in cities. And I think one of the
things he really emphasizes is that these
issues around labor force participation, education,
what kind of income jobs provide– these are the sources
of poverty in cities. These are the sources
of poverty in suburbs. Another finding that I
found really interesting– and I have not seen it
before I read your book– is that there is concentrated
poverty in suburban America. Ever since William Julius Wilson
wrote The Truly Disadvantaged, that came out in
1988, people have focused on the problem of
concentrated poverty in city. Now, I’ll raise a
question about this. But Scott measuring poverty
as 20% poverty population in a census tract shows
that concentrated poverty is growing in suburban areas. And also that it is
racially identified, so that blacks and Latinos
in the suburbs by 2014– a majority of blacks
and Latinos in suburbs are living in
concentrated poverty. It’s a little over 50%. So I found that to be a real eye
opener about suburban poverty. And let me now just raise
a couple of questions about the kind of
picture and the map that you’ve presented
in this book. So I do have a question
about concentrated poverty in the suburbs versus
concentrated poverty in the city. So the traditional
way that people measure concentrated
poverty in cities is with a 40% threshold– that
40% of the people, or more, in a census track are poor. And Scott measures it
as a 20% threshold– in part because the
40% threshold barely exists in the suburban areas. So I’d like to have a little
conversation about changing the measure from 40% to 20%. And does that suggest– I mean, what are the
differences there? Because some of the
arguments that Wilson made about concentrated
poverty is that you get people don’t know anyone
who’s held a job. They don’t have those
kind of loose ties that help you move ahead. 20%? Yeah. You can see that it’s problems,
but is it qualitatively different from
that 40% threshold that you still see in
cities, and are more rare in a suburban context. The second question
I would raise is, does it even make sense to
talk about suburban poverty? And that is in part because– you told me this. You told me to be interesting. It’s a good question. Yeah. In part because these
places are so diverse. And in some ways it makes sense
to talk about suburban poverty, because now we have– there’s so many
typologies trying to make sense of
suburban poverty that your mind
will explode trying to wrap your head around what
all these different typologies mean. But I do think it’s
important to keep in mind that suburban poverty
covers this range of places, and it’s sort of artificially
defined by the census that something’s a suburb
and something’s not a suburb. So low mass is
counted as a suburb, as is Gwinnett County, which is
a huge, pretty wealthy county outside of Atlanta,
but actually has more poverty than
the city of Atlanta, just because it is so big. So I guess I just would raise
questions about this label that we stick over all these
very, very different places. A third question
that I would ask– and this, I would love to
hear your thoughts about it– is that, especially during
the recession, when there was a lot of news stories
about suburban poverty, there was this sense of,
oh, these are new people. And then, there’s the old
hands, and they’re saying, oh, yeah, here is how you do it. Here’s how you go
to the food bank. Here’s how you figure it out. What is your sense– and the data may not
be available yet. But what is your sense about
recovery, from in the city versus in suburbs, recovery
from the recession. I mean, poverty grew everywhere
during the recession. And it has begun to go down,
although you point out, quite rightly, that it’s
still pretty high, because we have this problem of low wages. But I wonder what
your thought is and what your research
has said about, is there any reason to
think that the recovery will be longer lasting,
or will be better, in the suburbs than in the city? So that’s one critical
piece of the book. The other piece that
is really fantastic is this portrayal of what
this social services are, and what this social
safety net is. And I want to just
stand back for a second and highlight the importance
of social services in the American welfare state. Since 1996– which is a critical
time that we passed what is called welfare reform, which
basically made it nearly impossible to get cash
assistance in the United States, and certainly not to
get it for any period of time– more money has
gone into services. And the idea is
that the services will make people job ready. And so we have a
work-oriented welfare state. I mean, really, the
only thing you can get are food stamps, right? Or SNAP benefits,
unless you’re working. So these services play
this critical role in making sure that
people are going to be able to work if
they lose their housing, if they need help on the
side, if they need connection to a job. And what Scott says– and
he has a great term for it– is that we have a few of these
programs that are national, but except for SNAP, they’re
very oriented towards work. But when it comes to
these social services, we don’t have a national system. And in the book, he calls it a
network of local safety nets. And I think that’s a really
great way to think about it. It’s a network of
local safety nets. And they really, really
vary, because they’re so bottom up in the way
that they’re created. And they were not
nearly as responsive to rising need during
the recession as programs like SNAP, which was
really the most responsive, because a lot of
people were out of work and they couldn’t get
benefits from the EITC. But as he points
out in the book, these programs rely on local
capacity, political will, and initiative. So this is particularly
true in the suburbs, because the suburbs,
in a sense– many suburbs, not entirely true,
and your work points this out, that poverty has always
existed in suburbs. And historians have
written more and more about working-class suburbs. And the image of
Ozzie and Harriet never was an appropriate
way to talk about suburbs. But for many suburbs,
these organizations have to be created from scratch. They have to be created anew. And so this is a huge issue. And one of the things he
does, I think, really well is to highlight what
some of the barriers are to creating this
new kind of capacity. And he talks about
competitive local pressure. So suburbs are competing
against one another. Suburbs don’t want to be
known as the place where a lot of low-income people live. And a lot of
suburbs, like cities, would like to put a
lot of their money into economic development. And as I was looking
over the book– I read it as soon
as it came out. But as I was looking
over the book, I was thinking about
something I had just read. Cobb County, a suburban
county of Atlanta, where there is growing
poverty population, just put $400 million
of public money into moving the Braves
stadium to Cobb County. I don’t know why it
had to leave the city. And then they cut back
on funding nonprofits. And they recently said
they’re going to cut back on funding libraries. So these kind of
competitive pressures there are very strong. And the difference
is, in a city, you may have people mobilize,
and they can fight against it. They don’t always win, but
they can fight against it. In the suburbs, people
are not organized to fight against this. He also points out
NIMBYism as a huge issue. And so again, I think
one of the things that’s different in cities and suburbs
is just the political weakness of advocates in suburbs. They lack the tools for
political mobilization, and they lack the
political connections that many organizations
have in cities. So I really appreciate the
picture of the difficulties, and the importance
of this safety net, and the difficulties
in building it. I would also say, the lack
of a suburban safety net also creates burdens on cities. And it’s important
to remember that. Because if people can’t find the
services they need in cities, they often will go to suburbs. I mean, they’ll often
go into the cities, so you see this kind of suburban
free riding on the city. I’m going to just stop
with a few short questions. And so one of them
is, well, does the weak landscape of
organizations in the suburbs create opportunities? Because one of the big
problems that you have in places where there’s
lots of nonprofits is that there are a
lot of turf battles. And you have people
fighting against another, and you have a lot
of weak nonprofits. So could the absence
of organizations paradoxically create
more opportunities? I can’t help but ask this. How will the new
work requirements that many states are planning
to put on Medicaid, and perhaps other social services,
affect these organizations? What kind of new burdens
will it place on them? One more, and then
I’ll conclude. Obama’s portrait
was unveiled today. I don’t know if people saw it. It’s got all these
ivies around it. And he said, in his talk, that
America’s strength doesn’t unfold from the top down. It comes from the bottom up. What is your response to him
in light of your research? So I’ll just totally
really conclude– I’m getting the hook here– with a broader thought. Just thinking about comparative
policy in the welfare state. A variety of
thinkers have talked about transforming
European welfare states into social investment states. Don’t just spend money keeping
people idle, unemployed. But have an
investment in people. And I think in some ways that
the idea of a social investment state hasn’t made much
headway in the United States. But it is consistent with
American values, which prize work, prize
independence, prize initiative and self-sufficiency. But these big holes
on our safety net are one of the hugest
obstacles for us to move towards a
social investment state. So I’ll close by
congratulating you, and thank you for writing
such an illuminating book that scholars of poverty
will be coming back to again and again to try to understand
the challenge that poverty poses in our society. Thank you. Thank you, Margaret. [APPLAUSE] Michael? Thank you. It’s a pleasure for me
to have an opportunity to comment on this book. And let me say that I’ll echo
some of the things you just heard from Margaret. But I want to go back
to an origin story. Scott and Susan mentioned that
Scott had some halcyon days here in Providence,
Rhode Island. And I happened to be here
at that very same time. And for one of your original
HUD grants where, as you said, some of the ideas were emerging. I had a chance to talk
to you a number of times about research methods, and
about the underlying ideas. So it’s very exciting for me
to see this long-term research agenda manifest itself in a
very comprehensive treatment of the geography of poverty. I want to, in my remarks, talk
about a few key contributions of the book, underscoring
some things that you already know or you just heard. And then turn to some
background thoughts, and maybe some
questions to raise. Maybe one or two would even
be challenging and worth answering. So for those who have yet to
pick up the book, of course, I encourage you to
do that right away. And what I think
you’ll find is, first– echoing Scott’s own remarks
and Margaret’s comments– one of the most overarching,
important themes of the book is a framing that moves us away
from a simplistic and outworn binary of cities are poor and
suburbs are affluent or sites of opportunity– which I
think was on your slide– reminding us throughout
that suburbs are themselves very diverse places, and are
often places of disadvantage, as well. Secondly, the book really
documents and analyzes– and now I’m going to
quote from the text, “the rise of suburban poverty
amidst the persistence of poverty in central cities.” So there’s a place that
I really understand the breadth– the geographic and
nationwide breadth of poverty. And a third item
is that, I think, uncommon to much of
the writing on poverty, there’s a real interrogation or
discussion with the providers. You interview people. You actually talk to them. You quote from them in the book. And so there’s a
back and forth there that reflects the view
of the people in some of these social
service agencies that I think is not often there
in the social science work that so often analyzes and
quotes statistics on poverty. You’ve actually talked
to the people who’ve tried to provide
public services, and use that to inform
some of your own policy recommendations. I think that’s a great
strength of the book. And lastly, I’ll recommend– the book has an extensive amount
of documentation, wonderfully footnoted and referenced– Perhaps too much documentation. I would never say there’s
too much documentation. So there’s a wonderful
storehouse of knowledge there. So those are some
things that I’d just like to say at the outset that
I think really encourage anyone to take a look at the book. The most general comment I want
to make before I turn to some specific ones is to think about
an issue in the policy realm, in which a pendulum swings
back and forth over the years– maybe over the decades– between the issue of
people and the issue of places, or aid to people
and aid to places. And I won’t go quite as
far back as Margaret did. But I brought along something
from ancient history here. This that I’m holding up is
a pamphlet or a book called “Urban America in the ’80s”– 1980s, that is– “Perspectives and Prospects.” And it’s a report of the
President’s Commission on a national agenda for
the ’80s, and specifically within that report, on
the panel of policies and prospects for metropolitan
and non-metropolitan America. That was also known
as the McGill Report. The individual who headed
up that particular panel was Mr. McGill, president
of Columbia University. And he chaired from 1979 onward
Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Commission for National Agenda. The reason I bring
this up is, you’ll see the pendulum going
back and forth here. And I’m going to quote
a couple of things from the McGill report. “Accordingly, the purpose
and orientation of a, quote, ‘National Urban Policy’
should be reconsidered. There are no National
Urban problems, only an endless variety
of local ones.” A few pages later, the
McGill report goes on to say, “People-oriented national social
policies that aim to aid people directly, wherever
they may live, should be accorded priority over
place-oriented national urban policies that attempt to aid
people indirectly by aiding places directly.” So I use that as an
illustration of the fact that, at that moment
in time, reflecting one swing in the
pendulum, at least of some people who are gathered
for that report, that aid to people moving away
from aid to places was the way to organize things. We’ve seen over the course
of the Great Society up to the present time
other versions that were at other ends of the pendulum– community development
block grants, model cities, empowerment zones
that were focused around place-oriented policies. Stadiums that were supposed to
generate economic development, even as they seemed to generate
the circumstances that would have strained the budgets
and move things out of social services. So there is this back
and forth movement. And I’m going to
ask Scott at the end to say a little
bit more, and I’m going to push him
to where he is. As I read the book, and I
concentrated specifically on the chapter on the
geography of poverty– it’s an excellent chapter– and echoing a little bit of
what those of you in the room heard from Scott himself
a few minutes ago, SNAP or food stamps, and EITC,
the Earned Income Tax Credit, are seen as highly responsive to
changing geography of poverty, partly because they are
directed towards individuals, wherever they are. TANF and other such programs– Temporary Assistance to Needy
Families, the former welfare program– which have a lot of
local discretion, are less responsive in the
book’s treatment, at least since 2000, and get a
less favorable review. There’s positive comments
in the book about Medicaid and CHIP– the Children’s
Health program. But also in the book,
economic development zones– the kinds of things I was
mentioning a moment ago– are seen as having little
direct economic impact. So as one puts that together,
and then looks to the policy conclusions in the
book, one sees a text that suggests strengthening
SNAP, strengthening EITC, which many policy scholars
would agree with, improving TANF responsiveness. And then, a section
which is entitled, “Strengthening
Local Safety Nets.” And so my first big question
for our distinguished guests and author is,
should we, in fact, try to bypass the local safety
net, ala McGill and the panel from 1980, and aid
people directly. When do we need to
have place-based policy versus person-based policy
that bypasses places? Obviously, we want to
make people better off who are disadvantaged in society. I think there’s often,
however, a debate about how we get to where we want to be– through the geography or
bypassing the geography. So that’s my largest
question for you. Then I want to make a few
smaller-scale comments. I really like the idea of
concentrating on suburbs here, and opening up the
Pandora’s box, if you will, of suburban disenchantment
and disadvantage. And I want to suggest
some further thinking about political geography
versus social geography, or jurisdictional geography
versus ecological geography, if you will. And what one sees as one looks
around the United States, anyway, is great
variation in the fraction of the metropolitan population
that’s captured by the largest central city in the region. I know you know this. Anybody up here knows this. And most of you in
the room know this. So Chicago and Los Angeles
are featured prominently in the book. And about a third of the
metropolitan population, depending on how you
count, is in those places. But if one goes to Boston– and take some recent
statistics, about 14% of the metropolitan population
is in the city of Boston. And just as Margaret
was saying a moment ago, a lot of those inner
suburbs and some of those not-so-inner
suburbs are some of the disadvantaged areas. So how do we think about
geography that way? If we go to Oklahoma City,
just to pull another one out of the hat, almost
half of the population of the metropolitan
area is captured by Oklahoma City itself. So I would like to see
you respond a little bit to this issue of how
we think about working in this environment, where
place matters so much, but the coverage
varies so significantly from metropolitan area,
or from region to region. Secondly, I’d like to
touch again on an area that you yourself mentioned
in your comments, Scott. And that’s this
issue of the shifting bases of residential
concentration or segregation, and the issue of race and
ethnicity versus class. For a long time,
social scientists focused pretty
much preponderantly on racial and
ethnic segregation. The last couple
of decades, people have looked a lot more
at class segregation and found that that
was substantial, and in some sense, increasing. And then a number of
people have looked at the intersection
between race and class, including our own colleague
here at Brown, John Logan, who’s with us today. And John Iceland, Glenn
Firebaugh, Lincoln Quillian have all looked at
these sorts of things. John [? Fret, ?] for instance,
writes, “lower income whites live in neighborhoods
with a lower poverty rate than affluent
Hispanics and blacks,” in a recent report
of a few years ago. Those remarks are quite similar
to some other things one finds in the literature about this. So another question
for you is, how does one think about these
policy issues and delivering policy when you have this
intersection of race and class or ethnicity and class? Particularly in a
concern now in a world where there’s
increasing awareness of, and growing relevance of,
income disparities and class disparities in the US. And in a world where
there’s public discourse about racialization. How does one think about
the delivery of services? What have you learned about
how we should go forward there? Particularly, maybe, with these
community-based operators. And my last comment
is really a suggestion for the next decade or two. Since we maybe helped
launch, in a small way, some of the thoughts in Places
in Need here, maybe I can help, and our discussion could help,
launch some next steps for you, Scott. What might you have
to say to us about how to unpack the dynamics of
geography and income disparity in poverty? The book gives us brief
mentions of the program called Moving to Opportunity. It’s cited in there. It seems to get a
positive review from you, from what’s in there. You make mention of
Raj Chetty’s work and his colleagues
on opportunity. And Chetty and colleagues
argue that one way to address this problem– this generalized problem
of concentrated poverty– is to provide subsidized
housing vouchers. A number of people
have suggested that. They write later on in the
same document, “one must also find methods of improving
neighborhood environments in areas that currently generate
low levels of mobility.” So they’ve tried to
look at opportunity unfolding over time,
and mobility over time– Chetty and others. Sharkey, among the sociologists,
writing in Stuck in Place, have raised a lot of
concerns about how the geography of origin
influences where you wind up. So what I’d like to have
you comment on, Scott, is– what else would you
have us think about with regard to your concerns
about the geography of places, the delivery of
services, as we think about the impact of geography
on people’s long term economic mobility. Thanks very much for the book. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Well, our time has evaporated. And so– [LAUGHS] –Scott, we will, of course, be
continuing our conversation out in the reception. Scott, would you like
to say a few things? And then I’m sure there
are lots of questions here in the audience. Yeah. So let me just say
a couple things. First, thank you for
the thoughtful comments. Thank you for coming and
participating in this. I really appreciate it. It’s too bad Roberto
was unable to make it. He’s got this amazing
book called Lives in Limbo, which is about what
he calls Generation 1.5, which are kids who are– the
dreamers, essentially. It’s the kids who are the
children of immigrants who came here
undocumented, and how, as they mature into adulthood,
the realization that they are undocumented changes
their transition to adulthood. And it’s a terribly
important piece of research. And Roberto’s thoughts would
have been great for all of us. And if you’re going
to buy a book today, you should buy his book. And what he would
talk about with regard to immigration and
isolation discrimination would echo the conversations
that I have in mind, but with a deeper resonance. A couple of thoughts. One this is a
mixed methods book. I didn’t actually do a very
good job of setting that up. I actually looked at a
lot of census data, which is what you saw. But I spent time in Chicago,
Los Angeles, and DC, interviewing hundreds of
human service providers, and spending thousands of
hours in these communities. Volunteering in suburban
food banks and other food pantries in Chicago, to
kind of get a feel for this. And actually, I owe
them a debt of thanks. They gave me a lot
of time for this. There’s all kinds of
important questions that both Margaret
and Mike raised. I think the new work
requirements for Medicaid are a complete disaster,
to Margaret’s question. And I feel like I need to take
every opportunity to say that. Medicaid for working-age
adults supports mostly behavioral health and
mental health services. And those are the barriers
that are keeping people from working. And if you take
away their coverage, you will basically confine
them to a hard existence, where not only is work
hard, but there are no avenues for getting help. And you will destabilize
the safety nets in their communities that
are reliant on those funds to help underwrite other
services for people who do not qualify for Medicaid. It is one of the worst-minded
policy decisions of this week by this administration. I don’t know. I mean, it’s hard to know. I think a lot of
things that Margaret talked about I think will
echo in Mike’s comment about people aid
versus place aid. And I won’t do justice, because
I want to get to the questions here. But hopefully at the
Q&A conversation outside we can do this. I grapple with the person
aid, place aid dilemma. And I think the
reality is, a lot of our place-level
initiatives or interventions don’t work very well. They’re expensive and
they don’t actually lead to a lot of change. I think that means
there’s room, I think, for this generation
of scholars and entrepreneurs to come up with better housing
and transportation solutions, and other place-based solutions
that might work better than tax write-offs for
companies or incentives to hire individuals. The reality is
that those programs were created in
a context when we thought people were
working in cities, or were working close to home. And actually, those realities
aren’t true anymore. And so I think we
need to actually have better ideas there. The thing I spent time
worrying about in this book is the place-level variation
in person-based aid, and how the
person-based safety net can be very inconsistent
from one place to another. And a lot of the
recommendations I make are designed to strengthen
local safety nets’ ability to deliver person-based aid. Although I have
a lot of concerns about person-based
aid in many ways, because it places
responsibility for someone’s poverty on
themselves, as opposed to other structural factors. But we can talk more about that. There’s a lot of
variation in what suburbs are, as Margaret talked about. There’s a lot of variations
in how suburbs and cities are composed within metros. It’s actually what makes
talking about these issues very complicated, because you spend
time talking about one metro, or one city or suburb dynamic,
and you’ve talked about one. And it can be a very different
story in other places. The hardest parts of the
country to actually think about this analytically
are Boston and New York. Because they’re composed
uniquely geographically. They’re older cities. They have older suburbs,
that once were suburbs but now feel like
urban settings. And it’s difficult
to grapple with that. I’m happy to talk
more about that. And I told Eric today– the thing that was hardest when
I revised the data for the book to reflect post Great
Recession census data was, there was this
increase in concentration of people of color in
high-poverty neighborhoods and suburbs that didn’t happen. That wasn’t quite like that
prior to the Great Recession. That’s a post-recession
greater reality. And that’s a tough finding
for all kinds of reasons. But it underscores
how we’re replicating discriminatory
practices in suburbs. And I have one
anecdote for that. I was in a community where they
did an audit study of housing. They had people from the
community development office went around and tried
to rent apartments, like Devah Pager’s work
about looking for jobs, or John Yinger talks
about audit studies. And there’s other
people who’ve done this. And it wasn’t gold standard
in experimental design stuff. But they found evidence
that the testers of color were not rented to and
not treated the same as the white potential renters. And they wrote a report. And the community went berserk. The county commission
said, we aren’t racist. Look! We have a mayor of
color in our community. That’s true– they did in
that huge suburban region. And then they fired the person
who commissioned the study. And it’s never been
shown the light of day. The report itself got sent to
me by my contacts on the ground. But it just goes
to show the extent to which we are in denial– not only about poverty,
but also about the degree to which racial
discrimination exists. And it is swiftly moving
in suburban communities to isolate people. And one of the things
Roberto would talk about effectively– more
effectively than I could– is the isolation and
segregation that immigrants, and particularly
Hispanic immigrants, face in our suburban
communities, and our urban
communities, as well. So with that, maybe
open it up to others? And maybe we can– I’m happy to be network
time filler to answer other questions if I can. Yeah. Hi. I’m from Atlanta. And something that people
have been talking about really recently, since only
10% of the metro area actually lives in the
city, is regional support for transportation and stuff. But there’s a lot of
concern, since Atlanta is a Democratic city, so
everything is controlled by Democrats right now. If you try to make
it regional, it’ll be controlled by Republicans. Does anyone have
anything to say to that? You describe a true
political geography there. Margaret, you’ve
spent time in Atlanta. Haven’t you? Right. The fantasy of
regional government has been around for
about 100 years. And it gets rediscovered
every sort of 35 years. Like, I know! The answer is regionalism. But there’s so many
political obstacles to regionalism that I
don’t think it’s a danger. You know what I think is really
interesting about Atlanta, is that you have all
these suburbs that started as white-flight suburbs,
that are now very diverse. And many of those
suburbs wanted nothing to do with public
transportation– the idea that you would
extend MARTA out in any way. They always voted against. Always racialized
like– we don’t want to allow blacks
to come out here. Now that one of the suburban
counties is predominantly African-American– Clayton County– they voted
to extend MARTA there. So when I think
about regionalism, I think more about how new
people in different places may open possibilities
that seemed foreclosed before,
rather than thinking about regional government, which
I’d say the political obstacles are too high. I think there is
room to coordinate some activities across
smaller suburban regions. And I think you need– I call them quarterbacks
in the book, which I am borrowing someone else’s term. But my dad was a
sportscaster, so I do that. But I think there’s
opportunity to think about how you can bring
people together to do work. I was talking to a couple
of school districts in South King County,
outside of Seattle, about how they
could work together to think about ways to
smooth the school transitions that homeless children have. Because they move between the
school districts with fluidity. They could solve that
by working together to ensure that there’s
ways for the kids to have school
continuity, even if they don’t have housing continuity. And then maybe work to
provide housing continuity. I think your point also– and Margaret and I talked
about this earlier today. When you look at suburban areas,
the diversity of the population is not reflected
in representation in most of the political
or charitable institutions. And so part of the reason
why you see that disparity is that the economic
marginalization and the social marginalization
that many communities of color experience is also
political marginalization. And so I think one of the
challenges for those of us concerned with
social justice issues is to try to find ways to
bring new voices into elected offices and elected
positions, and to get involved in a variety of ways
to make that happen. If we improve
representation, I think we will improve
local commitments to a variety of
things, and not just regional solutions to poverty. Hi. You can get a
microphone [INAUDIBLE].. Cool. OK. Hi. Thank you all for your
talk and all the passion and good questions. I guess my question for you
is talking about that framing, and looking at binaries. Have you thought of other
framings of metro areas beyond urban and suburban? So particularly, one
that’s on my mind is favored quarter of
the city and unfavored. So looking at DC, which I
know really well, or Chicago, you can see that there’s
a lot of consistency between urban and suburban areas
on the east side of DC, which is majority low income,
people of color, and western side of the
city, which is majority white or Asian, and a lot
of economic development. And you see that,
whether looking to be in suburbs
or in urban areas, they end up choosing the
west side of the city. And they can choose
urban or suburban, but they happened on the
west side of the city, right? And public transit is better
on the west side of the city, it’s worse on the
east side of the city. Chicago– same with
north and south. How does looking at
that urban-suburban lens flip, when you look at a favored
quarter or unfavored quarter? And then how can
we address that? Because I feel like that’s– it’s not all suburbs that
are creating poverty, right? And those tend to
be uncertain parts of the city that are near
low-income parts of the city. So how do we address that issue? Yeah. Well, first– I
should’ve had a map. I was trying to
limit my comments, but then I spoke for
way too long anyway. I have maps that
would show, actually, that the increase in poverty
is happening everywhere. It’s happening in
Arlington, Alexandria, in Prince William County. It’s happening in
Prince George’s County and in Bethesda. It’s happening
everywhere in DC metro. And same in Chicago. It is true. There’s a lot of diversity,
though, between how it emerges and the causal
factors behind it. I think economic changes are the
driving factor in most places. But immigration will
be a more acute reality where you have a lot of working
poor immigrant families. But then you have
other communities, where migration from the cities
are a more prominent factor. It’s hard to come
up with a typology. We tend to think
of many services as being advantaged places,
because maybe they spend more on schools. There’s more affluence, maybe
better housing, or whatever. But there’s also
a lot of suburbs that have disadvantages. And I think how suburbs react
or respond to the problems around them is a
function of that. So you can think about
counties or municipalities that don’t have strong
political institutions, or don’t have wealth or
sources of wealth to tap into. And a lot of that
affects their response. I think, also, the footprint
of the suburbs matters, too. So inner-tier suburbs tend
to be smaller footprints. And that changes the economies
of scale calculations that you might have, or the
kind of opportunities you have to develop better solutions. But what’s hard is, again,
there’s so much diversity. There’s so much
variation in suburbs. More so than in
cities in many ways. It’s hard to actually come up
with the kind of a typology that I felt good about, that
would capture the differences that you describe. And so what I try to do is
say, it’s really varied. And here are some
examples of how it is. But I think
throughout all of it, there are certain
threads that stand out. Economic change is driving this. Racial segregation
is a factor here. The returns to education
matter that have happened in our labor market. And then, there just aren’t, in
any suburban community, nearly enough local resources
dedicated to doing this. And the solution isn’t going
to be from reallocating money from cities. Because cities
have problems that are still historic in scope. And we’re not going
to solve problems by trying to reallocate
money from cities. We have to pull in new
dollars and new efforts. I’m happy to talk more about
those specific places outside if you want to do that. Those are good questions. Let’s just take a couple
more, and then go get snacks. Snacks! Mm. Hi. Thank you so much for your book. So my question is, what
is the political party affiliation of the suburban
folks who are poor? Because I hear, to your point
about support services, right? So is there a link between
their SES and advocacy for more resources? Or is there some
type of discrepancy– ideology– with their
economic situation? So this is an area where
there’s a ton of opportunity to do better thinking. And I’d be open to– Margaret’s though
about these issues. I think, in many suburbs
that I’ve spent time in, as was stated by
the first question, that there’s a lot of more
conservative governance or party affiliation– Republican Party affiliation. I don’t want to presume
the partisan change of greater political
involvement mobilization. So if we engage and mobilize
individuals who are currently left out of conversations. I don’t want to presume
that they are automatically Democratic or Republican. What I know is that
they’ll be voice for their community for the
issues that they care about. They’ll be representation
for their needs. They’ll be less
paternalism from folks who think they know what’s best. And I think that’s
ultimately what matters. There’s a lot of space, though,
to think about how the changes in the geography of poverty, and
the changes in the safety net– or the lack of response
in the safety net– have political consequences. I don’t know if you want to
say something about that. We talk about that. My hope would be that we
would have institutions that were responsive
and receptive, regardless of party affiliation. But that might be
a cop-out answer. Happy to talk more
with you afterwards. I would just say one thing. It doesn’t exactly relate
to party affiliation, but it does have to do with
political representation. One pattern that
you see is that you may see more representation of
lower-income people and people of color in suburbs that are
poorer, and less in suburbs that are well off. So then you have
a problem that you can get political
representation in places that have fewer resources. But it’s harder to get
political representation in the places that may have
more disposable resources. And I don’t know how that
maps on to political parties. But the other thing I think
that Scott’s book highlights is that one important
political factor is that these nonprofits
also act as advocates. And if they are not
there, then it’s really hard in these places
that may not be well politically mobilized, or may not
be organized politically in the way cities are. It’s hard for that
voice to get out. And that’s a point that
you feature in the book. Yeah. It’s a good question. Last question. I think this probably
varies a lot. But I was wondering
to what extent the suburban poor are
able to use the resources available in urban areas. And also, possibly
to what extent policymakers think
they can, and say, look what’s going
on in the city. We don’t need
something here as well. A lot of eligibility
for safety net programs is geographically
shaped or determined. So for SNAP or Medicaid,
you’d go to a county office to process your
paperwork, and that’s how their benefits
would be distributed. I don’t know if you
noticed it, but when I talk about the
demography questions, I use tracks, and neighborhoods,
and things like that. When I talk about
the safety net, I use counties as
a unit of analysis, because that’s the relevant
unit for safety net programs. And actually, urban counties
have a lot of suburbs in them. And so there’s some odd
smoothing that happens there. And so you might be
better off if you’re a suburb in an urban county. So if you’re in Cook County,
you might be better off than if you’re outside
of Cook County, because you qualify for
more programs there. So that’s one piece. Most cities do very
little by themselves. And big cities have some
programs and things, but it’s a drop in
the bucket compared to the state-funded or
federally-funded programs. Folks will go a long way
to get help, if they can. And sometimes they’ll
go far away to get help, because they don’t
want to get help in their immediate community. But I think the bigger
challenges in suburbs are navigating the
transportation networks– the long commutes, where you’re
juggling work, childcare. And those things really do
affect access and take up. I think one of the
biggest challenges that providers face
is not seeing people who don’t show up, or who
attrite from programs, as assuming that they
don’t want to be there or they don’t need it. Because most of the time,
it’s actually not about that. Yet they infer–
they didn’t come, so they must not
want the program. So we’re going to
knock them off. Well, it’s pretty
hard to get around on the bus, particularly
suburb-to-suburb bus commutes, if you don’t have access
to reliable transportation. I think the other thing is
that a lot of nonprofits won’t serve people outside of
geographic catchment areas. Those get defined. One of the organizations
I spent a lot of time with outside of Chicago, the
demand was so great for them in this particular
suburb that they had to dramatically
constrict their footprint. And that was a hard
decision that they faced. And I think that they grappled
with it for a long time. But their volunteers started
quitting because they just couldn’t handle
the caseload flows. That would be a couple of
thoughts on that piece. Well, let’s continue
our conversation out in the foyer of
the Watson Institute. Thank you, Margaret– [APPLAUSE]

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