Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Suburban Poverty Report Raises Suspicions

Suburban unemployment almost doubled between 2007 and 2010.  That's one of six key bullets in a just-released report from Brookings Institution titled Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.

I have to admit to having only read the Cliff's Notes-like version that a infographic from Brookings provides.  Further, I'll apologize, in advance, for being a bit suspicious when it comes to urban-focused Brookings mentioning anything suburban.

My suspicion may be justified.  After all, the idea that suburban unemployment doubled during the Great Recession is hardly new news.  I'm surprised it wasn't much much worse considering the unemployment rates more than doubled during that same time from 4.5% in April 2007 to 9.9% in April 2010.

If one key item in the piece is suspect, doesn't that make the whole piece suspect? 

I'm not alone in my suspicion either.  Joel Kotkin's Daily Beast piece yesterday hit a similar tone.  Kotkin calls out Brookings for perpetuating a false suburban myth.

What's the point?  Kotkin may have nailed it in his headline.  It's about portraying suburbs as dieing places in need of policy fixes just like the urban areas. 

The truth is something altogether different. 

Suburban growth depends on continuing to invest in new infrastructure, devoting attention to skills training toward filling the skills gap in manufacturing, and embracing manufacturing that will help spawn growth across all sectors.  That's a urban growth model too though.

Reports to the contrary just raise suspicions.

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