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Economic Justice

Report finds increasing suburban poverty

A new report by independent think tank the Smith InstitutePoverty in Suburbia, finds that there are approximately 7 million people in poverty (57% of all those in poverty) living in the suburbs of England and Wales. The report also shows that the number of suburban neighbourhoods with above average levels of poverty has risen by 33% over the last decade. In many major cities there is also a narrowing gap in concentrations of poverty between urban centres and their suburbs.  The Smith Institute is an independent think tank.


The report challenges traditional notions of suburbs being places of relative affluence and wealth and shows that:


  • More people per head of population were on benefits (pension credit, job seeker’s allowance, income support and disability living allowance) in the suburbs than the rest of the country. The claimant rates have increased more per head (or decreased less) since the recession in the suburbs.


  • The gap in concentrations of poverty between cities and their suburban areas has narrowed. The report showed that incidences of poverty in the suburbs of eight major cities narrowed most in London (by 4 percentage points), Manchester (3 percentage points) and Newcastle (3 percentage points).


The report highlighted that:


  • Over half of those in overcrowded homes now live in suburbia.


  • Suburbs are home to more lone parents than the rest of the country.


  • In the decade to 2011 suburbia experienced a 25% increase in unemployed households – compared with a 9% increase in the rest of the country.


  • Around 60% of those claiming pension credit live in the suburbs.


  • The number of people with a disability was higher in suburban areas than the rest of the country.


Poverty in Suburbia calls for a greater focus on the suburbs by government (both local and central), policy makers and anti-poverty campaigners. It warns that higher housing costs and a lack of affordable housing in inner cities may force poorer tenants out to the suburbs. This alongside predicted rises in child poverty could mean that poverty becomes even more prevalent in suburbia.


Paul Hunter, the report’s author and head of research at the Smith Institute said:


“Poverty in suburbia has been ignored for too long. The evidence shows that an increasing number of people in poverty live in our suburbs. There needs to be a much better understanding of poverty in suburbia. Many suburban areas have struggled with the impact of austerity measures, and there is now a pressing case for a suburban renaissance.”