There has been a significant increase in the number of Nashvillians living in poverty over the past decade, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Brookings Institution.
From 2000 to 2008, some 32,000 people fell below the poverty line — $21,834 for a family of four — within the city limits.
The surge in poverty here far surpasses the national average, according to the report. The more than five million people who drifted into poverty across the country between 2000 and 2008 represented a 0.8 percent national increase, while Nashville proper saw a 4.2 percent bump.
As well, Brookings suggests given the current workforce trend — Nashville’s unemployment rate is hovering just below 9 percent — the city may find, once data can be analyzed, that its poverty rate advanced another 2.1 percent in 2009.
But those constitute the most extreme cases. Roughly one-third of the city’s population is considered low-income, meaning they fall below 200 percent of the poverty line. That is slightly higher than the nation’s average.
The good news for Nashville is that its suburbs are not following an emerging national trend toward poverty. The number of poor increased in the suburban areas by 22,000 over the same period, but the suburbs came in slightly below the national average in terms of overall expansion of poverty. Also, the number of working poor is considerably smaller in the suburbs.
Suburban poverty in large American cities grew five times faster than in urban areas during the period covered in the report. Those areas are also growing quicker than urban areas.
“The notion of poverty as primarily an ‘urban’ problem is officially outdated,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior research analyst at Brookings and author of the report, in a companion interview released Wednesday. “About one-third of all poor people in the United States live in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas, more than live in big cities, smaller metro areas, or non-metropolitan communities.”
The report compiled data from the nation's 95 largest metro areas.