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Robert Trigaux

Brookings: In Tampa Bay, Florida suburbs, poverty on fast track amid 'Great Recession'



Connertonpascokainazamaria Wake up and good morning. If Florida and Tampa Bay have been hit harder than most parts of the country by this recession, in what ways will we see it beyond higher unemployment rate statistics? Try rising poverty.

(Photo: Pasco County's Connerton community, which has gone bust and is for sale. By Kainaz Amaria of St. Petersburg Times.)

Florida suburbs -- where the housing bust was most pronounced, compared to the cities themselves -- are among the first to see the effects of the "Great Recession" translate into significant increases in poverty between 2007 and 2008, says a new Brookings Institutionreport out today. Sun Belt metro areas hit hardest by the collapse of the housing market saw significant gains in poverty between 2007 and 2008, with suburban increases clustered in Florida metro areas -- like Tampa Bay, Miami and Palm Bay. In cities, poverty increases are most prevalent in Western metro areas like Los Angeles, Riverside, and Phoenix. Here's the full Brookings report called The Suburbanization of Poverty.

Based on increases in unemployment over the past year, Brookings concludes, Sun Belt metro areas are also likely to experience some of the largest increases in poverty in 2009. (Data won't be out on last year for awhile.)

How much? Says Brookings: "Based on increases in unemployment throughout 2009, we project that the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area may experience an increase in its poverty rate of approximately 3.2 percentage points."

Is that bad or really bad? Here's a breakdown of some Florida metro areas and how much Brookings estimates poverty rose through 2009:

1. Cape Coral, up 3.8 percent
2. Lakeland, up 3.3 percent
3. Tampa Bay, up 3.2 percent
4. Orlando, up 3.2 percent
5. Palm Bay, up 3.0 percent
6. Jacksonville, up 2.9 percent
7. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, up 2.5 percent

So how does that compare among major metro areas in the Southeast?

1. Charlotte, N.C, up 3.4 percent
2. Greensboro-High Point, N.C., up 3.3 percent
3. Atlanta, Ga., up 2.5 percent
4. Birmingham, Ala., up 2.4 percent
5. Dallas-Fort Worth, Tex., up 1.6 percent

Here's Brookings' complete listing of metro areas and their poverty numbers.

Back to the Tampa Bay market, let's look at Brookings numbers about the rise of poverty in the suburban areas (which include Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties in this analysis):

* In 2008, 102,579 people in the primary city (in our case, Tampa or St. Petersburg or Clearwater) lived below the poverty level ($21,834 for a family of four), compared to 234,891 poor in the surrounding suburbs. This in-city figure represents no change for the city compared to 2000, but a significant increase for the suburbs.

* The poverty rate -- the share of the total population living below the poverty line -- showed no change in any of our three cities but a significant increase in the suburbs over this time period. In 2008, the suburban poverty rate was 11.7 percent compared to a primary city poverty rate of 15.3 percent.

* In 2008, 30.4 percent of poor individuals across the metro area lived in the primary city compared to 69.6 percent in the suburbs. Compared to 2000, this is a significant 7.2 percent increase in the suburban share of the metro area’s poor. Only ten large metro areas nationwide (and none in Florida) had a greater increase during this period.

* Using a broader definition of “low-income,” 230,985 individuals in the primary cities -- or 34.4 percent of the population -- fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty level in 2008, compared to 604,742 or 30.0 percent in the suburbs.

Bottom line? Our suburbs saw by far the greatest growth in their poor population and by 2008 had become home to the largest share of the nation’s poor. Brookings says these trends are likely to continue in the wake of the latest downturn, given its toll on traditionally more suburbanized industries and the faster pace of growth in suburban unemployment.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:27am]


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