Panel: Place, Poverty, and the Safety Net
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Ballroom F (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Scott Allard, University of Washington
Panel Chair:  Michael Stoll, University of California, Los Angeles
Discussant:  Michael Stoll, University of California, Los Angeles

In the past two decades, the geography of poverty in the United States has been redrawn in significant ways. More poor residents now live in suburbs than in big cities or in rural areas. Progress against concentrated poverty made in the 1990s was erased in the wake of two economic downturns. While the number of distressed neighborhoods climbed in the 2000s, they emerged at a faster pace in suburbs and smaller metro areas that often lack the infrastructure and support systems to address the needs of poor residents. At the same time, employment opportunities, especially for lower- and moderate-wage workers, continued to shift away from downtowns. Even the resurgence of urban employment centers after the Great Recession has done little to curb the outward growth of jobs in most major metro areas.

This panel will focus on the implications of these spatial trends in poverty and work. The first paper, “The Place-Based Turn in Federal Policymaking” by Laura Tach, will examine the spatial distribution and purpose of more than $365 billion in federal place-based funding initiatives between 1990 and 2015. The paper evaluates hypotheses about community characteristics associated with greater investment and find that more place-based funding went to areas with greater initial levels of disadvantage, more residential segregation, and a larger density of nonprofit organizations. It also assesses the impact of this “place-based turn” in federal policymaking for disadvantaged places and the residents within them.

Next, Elizabeth Kneebone and Mark Trainer will present a paper entitled, “How the Shifting Geography of Poverty, Employment, and Affordable Housing Is Reshaping Access to Opportunity.” In this work, Kneebone and Trainer will examine commute distances for workers earning less than $15,000 a year using LEHD origin-destination data and ACS data. On the whole, lower-wage workers tend to commute to jobs in relatively better-off neighborhoods than the ones they live in, particularly if the jobs are located in the suburbs. This pattern persists even for low-wage workers already living in the suburbs, suggesting that lower-income suburban residents often live in areas that are relatively poorer and less jobs-rich than the suburbs they commute into for work. Current analyses also explore the extent to which housing and land use patterns shape employment access and commute patterns.

Finally, Scott W. Allard and co-authors will present “Safety Net Challenges Created by the Changing Geography of Poverty in America,” which discusses the spatial responsiveness of contemporary safety net assistance. Drawing on unique safety net program administrative data linked at the county-level to the ACS from 2000 to 2015, this paper examines variation in safety net provision across the urban, suburban, and rural landscape. Certain federal programs, like SNAP or the EITC, are structured to be responsive to the changing geography of poverty. Yet, many other public assistance programs and nonprofit human services are not as well-matched to the geography of need.


Michael Stoll will serve as chair and discussant.

This panel features four scholars, who are part of the Institute for Research on Poverty’s Poverty and Geography Network.

How the Shifting Geography of Poverty, Employment, and Affordable Housing Is Reshaping Access to Opportunity
Elizabeth Kneebone and Mark Trainer, University of California, Berkeley

The Place-Based Turn in Federal Policymaking
Laura Tach, Alexandra Cooperstock, Samuel Dodini and Emily Parker, Cornell University

Safety Net Challenges Created By the Changing Geography of Poverty in America
Scott Allard, Elizabeth Pelletier and Matthew Fowle, University of Washington

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