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Suburban poverty levels spike

Rochester Business Journal
July 31, 2014

The number of people living in poverty in Rochester’s suburban communities has climbed sharply since 2000, a new report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution shows.

The Growth and Spread of Concentrated Poverty, 2000 to 2008-2012” notes that some 53,309 people were living in poverty in Rochester’s suburbs in 2000. That grew more than 43 percent to 76,280 between 2008 and 2012.

In 2012 the federal poverty level for a family of four was $23,492. For an individual, that income was $11,170.

Rochester’s suburbs ranked 86th among the nation’s largest 100 metro areas in terms of suburban poverty rates.

Some 53,869 city residents were living in poverty in 2000. That increased nearly 17 percent to 62,983 in the 2008-2012 period, the report states.

For the entire metro region, the poor population was 107,178 in 2000. That increased nearly 30 percent to 139,263 in the 2008-2012 period.

“Concentrated poverty remains a pressing urban challenge, but it is one that is increasingly shared by suburbs, which have experienced a rapid expansion of distressed and high-poverty neighborhoods in recent years,” Brookings Fellow Elizabeth Kneebone said. “Halting the grow of concentrated disadvantage requires smart regional policies that link up housing, transportation, workforce and job strategies to better connect low-income residents to economic opportunity regardless of where they live.”

Nationally, between 2000 and 2008 to 2012, the number of people living in distressed neighborhoods grew by 5 million. Distressed neighborhoods are those with poverty rates of 40 percent or more.

In the Syracuse metro area, some 72,452 people were living in poverty in 2000. That increased 19 percent to 86,350 in 2008-2012. Some 152,969 people lived in poverty in Buffalo in 2008 to 2012, up more than 13 percent from 134,988 in 2000.

The challenges of poor neighborhoods—including worse health outcomes, higher crime rates, failing schools and fewer job opportunities—make it that much harder for individuals and families to escape poverty and often perpetuate and entrench poverty across generations, the report states.

(c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail

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