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Measuring Changes in the Spatial Concentration of Income and Poverty Among Suburbs of Large U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Working paper #398
Janice Fanning Madden

American policy analysts and policymakers have assumed that poverty (or low income households) is increasingly concentrating in the inner suburbs of large American cities. This study demonstrates that assumption to be inaccurate. Using data on median household income and the poverty rate for metropolitan area civil divisions from the 1970, 1980, and 1990 U.S. Censuses, this study calculates two measures of the spatial concentration of income and poverty among the suburbs of 27 large metropolitan areas. The coefficient of variation and a regression of change rates on initial values to show that the spatial concentration of poverty and household income among suburbs has not increased over the last twenty years for 27 large U.S. metropolitan areas as a group. There is evidence, however, that poverty has increasingly concentrated over the last twenty years within some suburban municipalities of older metropolitan areas in the northeast and midwest, including Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and New York City.

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