According to a new report published Monday by the Brookings Institute, poverty rates in American suburbs have significantly increased since 2000. The research coordinated by the Metropolitan Policy Program, a nonpartisan think-tank, found that the poor population in suburban populations have increased by as much as 64%.
While the study, made by computing U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000 and 2010, concluded that this trend was interestingly absent in general in South Florida, a few communities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have seen abnormal increases in poverty rates.
Aventura, in the northern part of Miami-Dade, saw an increase of 4,000 poor individuals, or 76% in a single decade. The southern Homestead saw a 76.4% increase. Other suburbs, including Sunny Isles Beach, Doral, and Cutler Bay also saw double-digit increases in poor inhabitants.
On the other hand, Unincorporated Miami-Dade, home to as many as 1.2 million people, saw virtually no increase in poverty rates. Neither did Hialeah and Miami Lakes. The City of Miami also saw no decrease, but kept a high poverty rate of 28.6% of the total population. This might be due to the rather mild effect of foreclosure on home values in Miami.
In total, the population earning less than $23,550 in the three-county area of South Florida went from 565,400 in 2000 to over 833,100. However, this change wasn’t enough to offset the class balance in the region and the poverty rate has remained virtually the same.
There are many reasons for the suburban poverty increase in general. The Great Recession, the foreclosure crisis bringing many suburban home values down, new public housing projects in suburbs, and immigration are among the different causes and Miami-Dade has critical shares of each. But the Brookings Institute has a policy proposal that is attacked to its research.
Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube, co-authors of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America, point out that the finding requires a shift in federal welfare policy, which has been mainly dedicated to inner-city areas. For instance, they propose to “shift” $4 billion of the federal social assistance budget to suburbs.
And this is a great idea, if we’re trying to destroy the last good-looking communities of the country. Kneebone and Berube hastily propose the new spending in order to meet the new public transit demands, build more public housing in suburbs, and provide more education-related funds. Unfortunately, the authors failed to see behind the “throw money at the problem” fallacy.
It is true that public commute is very important to our communities. And it is also true that public transportation systems work terribly bad and leave out many suburban areas, especially in Miami-Dade County. But this does not mean federal funding is necessary. Despite the millions spent on the public transportation system in South Florida every year, buses and trains are old, filthy, criminal-rich, and have terrible scheduling, rude drivers, and bad routes.
Public housing is not any better. Since the beginning of the Great Society, housing projects have been synonym to crime and destruction. Walls often become canvasses, drugs are often traded in staircases, and it might be dangerous for people to stay up till late in some projects. Even when security cameras are installed, criminals still find ways, as in the Goulds, in Miami.
Is the Brookings Institute in favor of such scenarios? Or does it believe that a little more money will solve all the problems with no unintended consequences? Maybe it is simply that it knows no other alternative.
But alternatives to federal dollars do exist, and they work much better than government solutions. Where bureaucrats and politicians try to draw up new routes for public buses and deal with costly unions, private common transportation systems could be appearing and competing efficiently and cheaply for an ever-evolving demand.
Where public housing offers crime and turn respectable neighborhoods into near slums, private housing keeps becoming innovative and booming. Having no rent control, no public housing, and an entire free market of land with no zoning and planning regulations made by corrupt municipalities can do more than all the government actions on housing combined.
So what should governments do when population trends move so radically? Nothing, besides getting out of the way. Markets will always adapt to local communities with almost no time. The only issues associated with poverty, such as low standards of living and crime, are only the result of small opportunities and political oppression, which are both coming form the government’s turf.
The rapid increase in suburban poverty might be either a negative or a positive aspect. It may signify either new opportunities for poor people to move to more affluent neighborhoods, or be a part of the worrying Great Recession trends. Whatever the case is, the last organization that should be involved is the government.