Susan Davis, USA TODAY
USA TODAY - Metropolitan suburbs have seen the largest and fastest-growing poverty rates in America over the past decade, according to a study released this week by the Brookings Institution.
The new geographic reality means that federal policies geared towards rural poverty "are no longer well matched" to the nation's needs, with poverty affecting nearly as many residents in Republican congressional districts as Democratic districts.
Poverty grew in 388 districts with the industrial Midwest, the Intermountain West and the South hit the hardest by growing poverty with the metropolitan areas surrounding Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee hit particularly hard because of manufacturing job losses, while Atlanta, Charlotte, Las Vegas, and Phoenix were hit hard by the housing market collapse.
The vast majority of the nation's 435 congressional districts include some portion of suburban populations, and they are represented nearly equally by Republicans, 187 districts, and Democrats, with 181 districts.
93 percent of GOP districts experienced an increase in the suburban poor, compared to 83 percent of Democratic districts, but Democrats still represent poorer districts on average. In the past decade, the average poverty rate grew from 10.9 percent to 13.2 percent in GOP districts compared to 13.9 percent to 15.7 percent in average Democratic districts.
There are about as many people living in poverty today in Republican districts, 21.1 million, as there are in Democratic districts, 21.6 million.
"Unfortunately, poverty-suburban or otherwise-isn't very high up the congressional agenda right now," the study finds, "Certainly, Democrats are more inclined to see an active role for government in addressing poverty's challenges. But Republicans, too, should want to see scarce federal resources for community economic development, affordable housing, and core educational and health services reach areas of growing poverty."