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Face of US poverty: These days, more poor live in suburbs than in cities

The rise in suburban poverty reflects long-term demographic shifts – America is more than ever a suburban nation – as well as economic changes.

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Joey Gamilla, who is unemployed, sits at his computer in his apartment in Naperville, Ill. He was a middle-income homeowner when he was laid off in 2008.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

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Marcus Thomas, a lanky, unemployed construction worker, says he moved out of Roseland, a poor neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, because it had become too dangerous.

"I couldn't walk down the street without someone pulling out a gun on me," he says.

He didn't go far. Mr. Thomas came to this suburb just a few miles away, where on a recent afternoon he pushed one of his three children along the sidewalk in a stroller.

 

"It's better than the city," he says. "There's not too much violence."

Suburbs are increasingly becoming the address of America's poor. Suburban poverty across the country grew 53 percent between 2000 and 2010, more than twice the rate of urban poverty, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution. For the first time, more poor people live in the suburbs than in cities.

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