Poverty is a national crisis; 1 in 5 American children lives below the poverty line. And what many Americans do not know is that the suburbs are now home to a third of the nation’s poor. From 2000 to 2010, poverty grew almost five times faster in the suburbs of major cities than in the cities themselves, according to researchers at the Brookings Institute.
Impoverished residents of the suburbs face distinct challenges. Even cities with good public transportation might not have adequate service in and between suburbs and the city. The cost of living might grow faster than wages; and safety nets, already fraying, were not designed to handle suburban poor.
These resources are designed to aid journalists in covering this growing class of Americans: the suburban poor. They'll guide journalists to data and organizations that can help them:
- Debunk myths about poverty
- Examine the psychological effects of poverty
- Identify individuals in crisis who can put faces on the problem
- Create ethical journalism that tells the story of child poverty
- Understand and navigate the social services agencies charged with helping the suburban poor
These resources are provided as part of the McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute, “Poverty in the Suburbs: The New Poor, the Old Poor and the Growing Poor," held September 26-27 at Hofstra University, located on Long Island in New York. The workshop, hosted by Hofstra University's Lawrence Herbert School of Communication and its National Center for Suburban Studies, was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard is the leading source for data on household financial security and policy solutions. State-by-state report cards are provided.
Covering Poverty: A toolkit for journalists.
Feeding America The nation's largest network of food banks is a great place to find resources for stories on hunger, school lunch programs, food pantries, and the like. Their media team can connect journalists with local info and spokespeople.
The Heritage Foundation project on Poverty and Inequality dissects what it means to be poor in America.
Kids Count data center offers statistics on child poverty.
The National Center for Children in Poverty has a wealth of data and tools that journalists can use to deepen coverage of suburban poverty.
- How much does it cost to live in your area? A basic Budget Needs Calculator, like this one from the National Center for Children in Poverty, can help you put some numbers with your story to add context.
National Employment Law Project: State-by-state tables detail cutbacks in unemployment insurance for long-term unemployed.
Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity is a nonpartisan initiative seeking solutions to economic hardships confronting Americans.
U.S. Census Data can provide story ideas and key facts and figures, for example, the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates breaks down data to the level of school districts or the number of people in extreme poverty. Check out AmericanFactFinder for more data tools based on the census.
USDA SNAP: How Much Could I Receive?: Federal SNAP information site.
Resources from the SRI
Scott Allard's presentation, Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty and the American Safety Net, explains trends in poverty and the challenges stretching the safety net beyond its limits.
Patti Banghart's presentation, A Portrait of Poor Children in America, presents data on child poverty; Banghart is the project manager for the CDF-NY’s Early Childhood Systems Building Initiative and an expert on early childhood development and education and support for low-income families and children.
Michael Hanley, of the Empire Justice Center, gave a three-part presentation, How Detailed Data Analysis Reveals the True Face of Suburban Poverty, which includes a wealth of data and statistics as well as tips on what poverty-related issues journalists should notice and cover:
Trudi Renwick, of the U.S. Census Bureau, presented Measuring Suburban Poverty: Concepts and Data Sources, which is rich with graphs and charts.
Curtis Skinner, of the National Center for Children in Poverty, presented Who is Poor? How to measure poverty and why it matters, offering different ways to define and measure poverty.
News Coverage of Poverty in America
Greg Kaufman's work for The Nation
Rich People Just Care Less, Daniel Goleman, The New York Times, Oct. 5, 2013
About 15% of Americans live in poverty, so why is no one talking about it?, Daniel A. Medina, The Guardian, Oct. 5, 2013
Troubling numbers point to uncertain economic recovery, John Yang, NBC News, Sept. 17, 2013
White Privilege and The Suburban Safety Net, Scott Allard and Peter Sabonis, The Lines Between Us, Maryland's Your Public Radio, Sept. 13, 2013
Cul-de-Sac Poverty, Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube, The New York Times, May 20, 2013
Suburban Disequilibrium, Becky M. Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese, The New York Times, April 6, 2013
In Plain Sight series, Barbara Rabb, NBC News:
- Poverty in America: A problem hidden 'In Plain Sight', opening segment, March 4, 2013
- Sprawling and struggling: Poverty hits America's suburbs, Allison Linn, NBC News, March 22, 2013
America Now: Lost in Suburbia, a six-part Dateline NBC series that aired starting June 26, 2012
"So Rich, So Poor": Peter Edelman on Ending U.S. Poverty & Why He Left Clinton Admin over Welfare Law, interview with Peter Edelman, Democracy Now, May 23, 2012
The New Suburban Poverty, Lisa McGirr, The New York Times, March 19, 2012
Additional links to media coverage of American poverty: Dozens of articles and links to studies, reports and more compiled by Gabby Anania.
Covering Poverty in the Suburbs Webinar: Learn how you can find and tell powerful stories about this growing class of Americans: the suburban poor. Presented by Barbara Raab, senior producer of the NBC News initiative “In Plain Sight: Poverty in America.”
Getting Ahead of the Food Price Story: Food supply impacts everyone; rising prices can result from a number of causes. Learn how to read the numbers and dig up local and regional data that help you tell the stories that are relevant to your audience.
The State of Metro America: Key Trends for the Future: Learn about trends in American cities — aging, poverty, race and ethnicity and immigration.
Additional NewsU Training Resources
Resources for Reporting on the Economy and Mental Health: A resources page from a 2012 SRI on covering the effects of the poor economy on American families