It is nicknamed ‘The City Beautiful’ and many associate it with “the happiest place on earth,” Disney World, but Orlando is among 15 cities where poverty is soaring fastest, according to new data released by the Brookings Institute.
Analyzing poverty levels in metro areas and examining the change between 2000 and the period of 2008-2012, Brookings found the growth in metro Orlando’s poor population soared by 81 percent. In other words, in 2000 the area’s poor population was 169,317 but by 2008-2012, the average poor population had skyrocketed to 307,240.
Orlando’s shocking increase of its poor population is juxtaposed against rapid growth in tourist arrivals which topped 59 million in 2013, placing it in the number one spot in the United States. In addition to Disney World, Orlando is home to other major attractions including Universal Studios and Sea World, as well as the Orange County Convention Center – the second largest convention facility in America – where thousands of low-wage workers are employed. As of December 2013, median pay in metro Orlando ranked dead last among the nation’s 50 biggest metropolitan areas and it had the largest share of jobs – 37 percent – paying less than $25,000 a year.
The Brookings report also noted that poverty has become even more concentrated.
From the Brookings Institute Report:
“As poverty has spread, it has not done so evenly. Instead it has also become clustered and concentrated in distressed and high-poverty neighborhoods, ending the brief progress made against concentrated poverty during the late 1990s.
“The challenges of poor neighborhoods – including worse health outcomes, higher crime rates, failing schools, and fewer job opportunities – make it that much harder for individuals and families to escape poverty and often perpetuate and entrench poverty across generations. These factors affect not only the residents and communities touched by concentrated disadvantage, but also the regions they inhabit and the ability of those metro areas to grow in inclusive and sustainable ways.”
In addition to Orlando, included among the 15 cities where poverty has skyrocketed are: North Port, Florida; Cape Coral, Florida and Boise, Idaho, according to the Brookings Institute report.