Poverty and Suburbs: A Historical Perspective

WCPC Seminar Series on Poverty and Policy: Spring 2009

Presented by Margaret O’Mara
Assistant Professor of History
University of Washington
Monday, May 18, 2009  3:00 - 4:00 p.m., questions / discuss until 4:30 p.m.
Parrington Hall Forum, Room 309
University of Washington


Dr. O'Mara writes and teaches about modern American history, focusing on the evolution of political institutions, the growth of cities and suburbs, the impact of economic globalization, and the emergence of high-technology economies. Her book, Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley, explored how Silicon Valley came to be, why other U.S. regions did not become Silicon Valley, and what Cold War political economy had to do with it. Her current research projects pursue similar themes on a global scale, considering the role of political institutions in economic globalization since 1940 and the emergence of "new" Silicon Valleys in China, India, and other nations around the world. She also advises universities, governments, and other organizations about knowledge-driven economic development, urban planning and governance, and the role of higher education institutions in building dynamic and sustainable regional economies.

Dr. O'Mara teaches in the Department of History at the University of Washington and is a research scholar at the Bill Lane Center for the North American West at Stanford University. She received her PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania and her BA from Northwestern University. From 1993 to 1997, she worked on economic and welfare policy in the Clinton Administration.

You can see her full CV at http://faculty.washington.edu/momara/OMara%20cv%20Oct%2008.pdf


Prevailing narratives of North American suburbanization focus on the outmigration of the middle class and the wealthy from center to periphery. However, suburbs have long been home to working class and poor people as well. The story of these ‘hidden suburbanites’ is a critical part of understanding the evolution of the modern metropolitan landscape and the role of political and market institutions in the spatiality of poverty and wealth.