Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Suburbanization, Poverty, Race, Spatial Demography

Major Advisor

Kenneth Foote

Associate Advisor

Mark Boyer

Associate Advisor

Chuanrong Zhang

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This dissertation investigates rising poverty in suburbs in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metropolitan area in the 2000s. In that decade, suburbs saw an unprecedented rise in the number of poor and the reasons for this increase are not yet fully understood. Moreover, there are signs that this increase was not only the consequence of the decade's two recessions but of an on-going fundamental neighborhood change and shifting population compositions in metropolitan areas. In this dissertation, I use a combination of decomposition methods to identify the underlying racial, ethnic and socioeconomic dynamics for the increase in suburban poverty. Themes of this dissertation are drawn from urban geography and sociology, spatial demography, quantitative spatial analysis, and economic geography.

The first chapter introduces poverty trends in the U.S. and its consequences on an individual and local level. Furthermore, suburban change as well as racial and ethnic composition changes in metropolitan areas are discussed, culminating in the research framework.

Chapter two of the dissertation provides a comparison of four different suburb definitions. The comparison was conducted with data from the one hundred largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. using multivariate analysis of variance. The four methods were evaluated based on how well they capture the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic variability between urban and suburban areas, and within suburban areas themselves.

Chapter three decomposes the local population change for four racial and ethnic cohorts and their socioeconomic status into the portion of change that is attributable to regional trends and to local factors in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metropolitan area during the 2000s.

Chapter four estimates the relative strength of the effect of a shifting population composition in suburbs, rising poverty rates among one or more groups, or a combination of these processes on suburban poverty in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metropolitan area using data from the 2000 census and 2008-2012 American Community Survey.

The results of the analyses show that much of the rise in suburban poverty is attributable to the economic effects of the Great Recession on minorities. Intra- and interregional migration of minorities has only a minor effect on suburban poverty. The results further show that nonpoor Whites leave inner-ring suburbs in large numbers, which exacerbates poverty rate increases.