Ask Americans to draw a mental map of who lives where, and they will likely say that immigrants and the poor live in large cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, while middle-class whites make their homes in the surrounding suburbs. But these mental maps are often inaccurate. Today, more poor people live in suburbs than in central cities, and more than half of all metropolitan-area immigrants reside in suburbs. Immigration, job growth, and residential choices are making our nation’s suburbs more economically and culturally diverse.
How are suburban leaders responding to disadvantaged immigrants in their communities? Are they doing as much to support immigrant residents as leaders in traditional gateway cities? We explored these issues by tracking flows of public money through four local governments in the San Francisco Bay Area. A key federal government initiative, the Community Development Block Grant program, allocates millions of dollars to help municipalities improve services and support for low and moderate-income residents. When Bay Area municipalities put these funds to use, do big central cities and suburbs do equally well at helping poor immigrants?