The Suburb as the Slum: Housing Voucher Shifts in America

A new working paper from the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Opportunity series examines a major demographic shift in housing voucher recipients from the cities to the suburbs. Authors Kenya Covington, Lance Freeman and Michael A. Stoll write: “Just as the suburbanization of poverty has gathered momentum, Americans who use housing choice vouchers (HCV) to help pay for their housing have increasingly moved into suburban areas as well.” The authors studied data from 2000 to 2008 to see how this shift has taken place.

They found that:

Nearly half of all HCV recipients lived in suburban areas in 2008. However, HCV recipients remained less suburbanized than the total population, the poor population, and affordable housing units generally.

Black HCV recipients suburbanized fastest over the 2000 to 2008 period, though white HCV recipients were still more suburbanized than their black or Latino counterparts by 2008. Black HCV recipients' suburbanization rate increased by nearly 5 percent over this period, while for Latinos it increased by about 1 percent. The suburbanization rate for white HCV recipients declined slightly.

A Postcard from Brookings: Wolfers Bids D.C. a Fond Farewell

As my better half is preparing to leave the Obama administration for academic life, we’re packing up our DC apartment and, as typically happens while packing boxes, feeling a bit reflective. So I thought I would share what has made our time in DC so special.

For me, the great joy of being here has been spending time at The Brookings Institution. It’s an extraordinary place, and I’m convinced that I’ll look back on my time here as pivotal in shaping my evolution as an economist.

The rhythm of life for Brookings economists is dictated by the lunch table. This isn’t the usual lunchroom gossip, but rather an ongoing inquiry into the policy debates du jour, with a relentless focus on economics. It’s an intense ordeal, and facts are the only currency accepted. Scholars who are heading up to the Hill, briefing journalists or visiting the White House, will test drive their insights over salads and sandwiches. Survive lunch, and the rest of your day will be easy. Those Formica tables have heard a lot of great ideas improved, and bad ones decimated.

The biggest difference between Brookings and my usual academic gig is the degree of engagement with real public policy questions. And so this year has served as a wonderful education on the messy reality of U.S. economic policymaking.