Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Community Development

Suburbanization of Poverty in the Bay Area

April 20, 2012

An excerpt from the Community Development Policy Brief
By Matthew Soursourian 

The shifting geography of poverty compels the community development field to reevaluate how we do our work because it signals important changes in the communities we care about. It remains to be seen if suburbanization will increase or diminish access to opportunity, but we can identify several challenges that the suburbanization of poverty presents, as well as possible ways to address these challenges. 

Figure 1. Orange shading denotes cities with the largest percentage growth in the number of people living in poverty. Nearly all of the orange areas are outside the urban core.

Suburbanization of Poverty in the Bay Area






















Figure 2. This map presents a snapshot of the geography of poverty in the Bay Area in 2009 and draws attention to areas where poverty rates have increased since 2000 (outlined in red). Pittsburg, Antioch, Vallejo, and Santa Rosa have high poverty rates but are also located in suburban areas farther from the urban core.

Suburbanization of Poverty in the Bay Area Figure 2

Figure 3. Cities outlined in red experienced the greatest increases in poverty rates from 2000 to 2009. Almost all of these cities fall within the quintile farthest from rail stations.

Suburbanization of Poverty Figure 3

Read the full policy brief 

Watch the policy briefing featuring Alan Berube from the The Brookings Institution, Tse Ming Tam from the United Way of the Bay Area, and Paul Buddenhagen from Contra Costa County.


The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Federal Reserve System.