Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Poverty rates have risen across the United States since 2000, but the fastest growth in poverty is occurring in the suburbs (Berube and Kneebone 2013). Today, more poor people live in suburbs than cities (Berube and Kneebone 2013). Parallel to this increase in suburban poverty has been federal retrenchment in cash assistance in exchange for service-based assistance (Allard 2004). By and large, the federal government administers social service funds to state governments who then allocate the money to nonprofit entities. This reliance upon local providers creates an uneven patchwork of care (Peck 2008; Allard 2009; Berube and Kneebone 2013) as nonprofits determine where to locate without an overseer ensuring that services are equally distributed according to need. Whereas cash welfare payments were not bound by location, social service providers are (Allard 2009; Berube and Kneebone 2013; Allard 2017), raising questions as to the safety net’s ability to respond to new geographies of poverty. This study addresses the question: Is there a spatial mismatch between the location of social services and poor populations? This question is answered through a quantitative spatial analysis of the Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) using Esri’s ArcMap Geographic Information Systems software. The locations of American Job Centers, food pantries, and soup kitchens are analyzed in relationship to poverty data (from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey) to ascertain how the social service safety net aligns with the current geography of poverty.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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