While poverty rates remain higher in urban areas than in suburban areas -- 18.2 percent compared with 9.5 percent -- the number of suburban poor by 2008 exceeded the number of city poor in the largest U.S. metropolitan areas by 1.5 million, the University of Chicago study prepared for the Brookings Institution public policy organization said Thursday.
Poor people in many suburban communities increasingly found it hard to get the help they needed because social service providers were spread thin in many suburban areas, said the study, which examined representative metropolitan areas of Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington.
The researchers found the 2007 financial crisis and ensuing recession has led to an increase in the number of people seeking help from social-service agencies for the first time, including those "who never imagined becoming poor," said Scott Allard, a University of Chicago associate professor who co-wrote the "Suburbs in Need" study.
"Almost three-quarters of suburban non-profits are seeing more clients with no previous connection to safety net programs," Allard said.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported Sept. 16 that 4 million additional Americans were in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or 14.3 percent of the U.S. population, the highest level recorded since 1994.
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