[Source: Russ Wiles, Arizona Republic] — Do poor people live in or near your neighborhood? The answer could be yes, as working-poor families in the Valley are more spread out than in most other cities. And that’s generally good for them and for the economy, according to a report being released today. The study from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., shows the Valley is bucking a national trend in which poor working families increasingly cluster together. The study ranks the Phoenix metro area as having the fifth-lowest concentration of working-poor neighborhoods of 58 urban areas studied. The Valley also ranks second-best in the country for its percentage decline in poor-neighborhood concentrations over a recent six-year period.
The study focuses on the geographic concentration of poverty rather than the number of low-income families because people who live in disadvantaged geographic areas face a “double burden,” according to the report’s authors. They not only must try to make ends meet on low incomes but also usually live in areas characterized by few jobs, higher consumer prices, low housing values, more crime, worse community health standards, inferior schools, and so on.
Western cities generally scored well in terms of low concentrations of poverty-riddled neighborhoods – and in terms of the change of that concentration from 1999 to 2005. The Sacramento, San Diego, and Washington, D.C., metro areas had the lowest concentrated poverty rates, followed by Trenton, N.J., and the Phoenix metro area, including Mesa and Scottsdale. Also, the Valley enjoyed the second-biggest decrease in high-poverty neighborhoods from 1999 to 2005, trailing only the Los Angeles metro area. The study relied on 2005 because that’s the most recent year for which poverty data were available. However, the Valley’s job market, housing market and economy have deteriorated since then — a trend also pronounced in Los Angeles and other Western cities that scored well in the report. “If you take it forward to 2008, things might not look quite as rosy for Phoenix and other Western cities,” said Alan Berube, a Brookings research director and report co-author. “Performance of the regional economy explains a lot.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]