Poverty in suburbia: a Smith Institute study into the growth of poverty in the suburbs of England and Wales

Document type
Hunter, Paul
Smith Institute
Date of publication
1 April 2014
Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

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The evidence in this report clearly shows poverty in Britain today is not just a problem for the inner cities. Most people in poverty live in suburban neighbourhoods, and there are more suburbs with high concentrations of poverty than there were a decade ago. Moreover, in many major cities there is a narrowing gap in concentrations of poverty between
urban cores and suburbs.

It appears likely that higher housing costs in urban centres, combined with the effects of welfare reforms, will further increase overcrowding in inner cities, driving low-income households out to relatively cheaper suburbs. If this happens,there could be an increase in poverty rates in suburbia. Future welfare reforms could have a disporportionate impact on suburbs. For example, with child poverty set to increase, the higher concentrations of lone-parent households in suburbia mean that benefit changes could have greater implications for suburban poverty. Meanwhile access to jobs and services in suburbs is often a problem for those with disabilities, older people, and those without access to a car.

The report calls for a “suburban renaissance” to improve the suburban fabric, including sensitive increases in density (to
enable cheaper, more reliable transport), greater access to shops and services, and investment in the public realm.

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