To look around Northeast Ohio, the poorest areas seem easy to pick out. Cleveland, East Cleveland, the near-west side of Cleveland come to mind, all beset by increasing poverty levels, foreclosures, declining employment bases. Places like Westlake, Strongsville, Mayfield Heights, meanwhile, retain the illusion of happy middle class life with picket fences and trimmed lawns. We all know that's not true — there's poverty everywhere, foreclosures everywhere — but new data shows that the problems in picket-fence land might be worse than we all thought.
The New York Times reports that while cities experienced a 26-percent increase in poverty levels, suburban levels climbed by 53 percent. The report, which focuses on NEO, shines a light not only on the existence of increasingly poor populations in the outer-ring suburbs like Parma Heights, but the problems these cash-strapped suburbs face in providing services to the needy. 60 percent of Cleveland's poor, according to the report, now reside in the suburbs.
The whole piece is well worth your time. A short excerpt below.
As a result, suburban municipalities — once concerned with policing, putting out fires and repairing roads — are confronting a new set of issues, namely how to help poor residents without the array of social programs that cities have, and how to get those residents to services without public transportation. Many suburbs are facing these challenges with the tightest budgets in years.
“The whole political class is just getting the memo that Ozzie and Harriet don’t live here anymore,” said Edward Hill, dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.
This shift has helped redefine the image of the suburbs. “The suburbs were always a place of opportunity — a better school, a bigger house, a better job,” said Scott Allard, an associate professor at the University of Chicago who focuses on social welfare policy and poverty. “Today, that’s not as true as the popular mythology would have us believe.”