As Facing South has noted before, one of the biggest long-term trends happening in the South has been the rapid growth of suburbs, which have grown faster in the South than any other region.
Driven by white flight, the South's uniquely loose approach to city planning, and other factors, the rise of the 'burbs has gone hand in hand with political shifts in the South as well, with the city's outlying areas becoming a bastion of conservative political strength in the region (think Cobb County, Georgia and the rise of Newt Gingrich).
In the 2006 mid-terms, exit polls show that the suburbs remained the Republican's biggest stronghold in the South. In House races, 57% of Southern suburbanites voted for the GOP in 2006, and only 41% for Democrats -- the highest and lowest, respectively, of any type of community. By contrast, a majority of Southern urban and rural voters went Democrat in 2006.
But a new study by the Brookings Institution suggests the suburbs may be changing. Specifically, poverty in the suburbs -- once viewed as areas of affluence -- is on the rise, especially in the Midwest and South. Among the report's key findings:
* From 1999 to 2005, poverty grew in both central cities and the suburbs. In 2005, the poverty rate in large cities was 18.8 percent and inthe suburbs was 9.4 percent.
* In cities and suburbs where overall poverty rates rose from 1999 to 2005, child poverty rates rose faster. In Midwestern and Southern cities, child poverty rates were up by at least 3 percentage points on average.
* Of the 11 suburban areas where poverty grew fastest, four are in the Midwest and four in the South. In the South, suburban poverty grew fastest in the outlying areas of Atlanta; Greensboro, NC; Dallas; and the border city of McAllen, TX.
The child poverty rates were especially shocking in several suburban areas: in Greensboro suburbs, over 21% of children are poor; and McAllen, 55% of children live in poverty.
The effect is that the suburbs are becoming a lot more like the places they sought to replace:
Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, said many of the same social and economic problems that have plagued cities for years are now affecting suburbs: struggling schools, rising crime and low-paying jobs.
"I call it the urbanization of the suburbs," Morial said.
For a full copy of the Brookings report, visit here (pdf).