Welfare Soars in Ritzy Suburbs

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It’s time to adjust our preconceived notions for how—and where—poor people live. While poverty rates rose throughout the country over the past few years, the sharpest increases occurred not in the “poor” inner city, but the “well off” American suburbs.

By no small coincidence, the Wall Street Journal reports that the number of welfare recipients is skyrocketing in some of the wealthiest commuting communities in the New York City area.

On Long Island, where finding a decent home under $500K is a challenge, there are now 67% more welfare recipients than there were four years ago. The median household income on Long Island’s Nassau County is $91,000, and yet there are now over 15,000 people on the welfare rolls, a 73% increase since 2007. There has also been above-average growth in welfare numbers in the traditionally affluent New York City suburbs such as Bergen County, N.J., and New York’s Suffolk, Rockland, and Orange counties.

(MORE: The Sad, Sorry State of the Middle Class)

From 2000 to 2010, the number of people living in poverty has also more than doubled in suburbs in the outskirts of cities such as Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, and Milwaukee. What does this mean in the long run? Well, if poverty rates keep climbing in the suburbs, a reverse migration could occur as more people leave the ‘burbs and move to cities—where there are more jobs and the cost of living is lower.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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