How Ferguson Fell Into Poverty

Ten years prior to the turn of the new millennium, Ferguson, Missouri was a suburb of St. Louis, mostly middle class and around 75 percent white. By the year 2000, its population was close to 50 percent black and 50 percent white with a 5 percent rate of unemployment. Ten years later, its population was around 66 percent black with unemployment in excess of 13 percent and poverty rates doubled. Many are left to wonder how Ferguson changed so dramatically so rapidly.

Although eyes are on Ferguson right now, this trend and problem is not unique to it. Much the same is happening in suburbs elsewhere in the nation. For one, suburban communities have been growing, increasing the availability of options for affordable homes. Jobs with low skill requirements such as construction and retail have likewise moved more and more away from cities and into suburban centers. Add to these factors the housing crash and the recession in the first decade of the millennium.

Many newer and more affluent suburbs have zoning laws preventing the building of housing that is high-density, and thus easier to afford, while many older suburbs, such as Ferguson, have no such laws and thus become havens for poverty stricken people searching for affordable homes.

It seems that Ferguson is simply the place that has revealed a larger scale problem that is in truth plaguing many suburbs across the nation. While some hope that the Ferguson situation may help lend focus to the issue of poverty in America, others worry that the issue may fade from the public consciousness with the next news cycle. Only time will tell.