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Concentrating poverty

Concentrating poverty

A year after Michael Brown died on the streets of Ferguson, MO, the New York Times wondered what had changed. The story of the unarmed teenager’s death by police gunshot and the tensions that erupted drew attention to the deep inequities of race and status in the area; and we have continued to witness to those wounds this weekend.

The Huffington Post analysed the Times article.

“A Year After Ferguson, Housing Segregation Defies Tools to Erase It” by reporter John Eligon, examines how racial discrimination by landlords, real estate agents, and others reinforces and exacerbates segregation in the region, particularly its mostly-white suburbs. Such segregation, Eligon suggests, is the root cause of the well-documented racial profiling by police that has stirred so much controversy, and protest, in recent years.

Eligon follows the story of one woman who received a “Section 8” Housing Choice Voucher, but who discovered that it did not give her as much choice as its name implied when it came to finding housing in safer, more affluent, and less racially segregated areas of town.

Peter Dreier, writing for the Huffington Post, concludes that,

Housing discrimination today is not as blatant as it was before the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, when many homes had restrictive covenants on deeds prohibiting sales to blacks (and, in many cities, Jews); banks, real estate agents, and landlords could exclude blacks without violating any laws; and local governments used zoning laws to create black districts and to make sure that public housing was racially segregated.

Studies show that banks continue to discrimination against minority consumers and neighborhoods of color by either denying them mortgage loans or pushing them into riskier “subprime” mortgages. Realtors continue to “steer” black (and to a slightly lesser extent, Latino) families who are looking to buy or rent homes. They show them houses and apartments in some (predominantly minority) neighborhoods but not other (predominantly white neighborhoods). There’s no doubt that rental racism by landlords and realtors significantly contributes to the harsh reality that in 21st century America, whites and blacks tend to live in different worlds.

In a separate story, Richard Florida, writing for CityLab, notes that this continuing segregation is contributing to the problems of concetrated poverty, reporting that

new Century Foundation study from Paul Jargowsky, director of the Center for Urban Research and Urban Education at Rutgers University, reveals the devastating growth of geographically concentrated poverty and its connection to race across America. …

Concentrated poverty also overlaps with race in deeply distressing ways. One in four black Americans and one in six Hispanic Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods, compared to just one in thirteen of their white counterparts.

Florida agrees with Jargowsky that such concentrated poverty, “is not inevitable, but rather the result of ‘choices’ our society makes.” Each has societal solutions to suggest; but Florida’s conclusion seems to dovetail worryingly with the story of continuing segregation outlined above.

In short, concentrated poverty is deepening. Far more troubling than simple income inequality, our nation is being turned into a patchwork of concentrated advantage juxtaposed with concentrated disadvantage. The incomes and lives of generation after generation are being locked into terrifyingly divergent trajectories. Now more than ever, America is in need of new 21st century urban policy.

Read the articles here: New York Times; Huffington Post; CityLab.

Is the work of the church changing or even accidentally reinforcing the urban and suburban landscape around you?

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Philip B. Spivey

Actually, I'm not surprised at these numbers. Two things occurred which dashed hopes in our Black communities: First, the Great Recession of 2009-2013. The rich became richer and the poor, poorer. Second, the political push-back against Obama in the Congress and in many of the state houses and municipalities by Republicans made it sure bet that legislation would be retro-grade and reactionary.

I'd like to know how poor whites fared during these time times periods and how middle class and the wealthy whites fared, also. Those stats may help us discern how wealth left the Black communities and where that wealth wound up.

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Harry M. Merryman

Philip,

I'd like to agree with your indictment of Republicans in Congress and state houses as significant contributors to high concentrations of Black poverty. However, of the top six metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of Black poverty, four are in in deep blues states (California and New York). Living in Rochester, I find this disparity particularly stark and shameful, inasmuch as the Rochester metro is arguably the most affluent in upstate NY.

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Philip B. Spivey

Harry:
Your point is well taken and though I don't have the facts readily at hand, I would say that the old adage about our economy probably explains this phenomenon: When the American economy catches a cold, Black and other poor communities of color get pneumonia.

We could extend this metaphor to acknowledge that beginning in 2009, the American economy had pneumonia and the poorest communities had___________. Fill in the blank.

Even if any new legislation was not retrograde in the blue states, none of these efforts were aggressive enough to stem the economic bleeding in their Black communities; like the Titanic, steerage passengers were the least likely to survive the sinking. There just weren't enough boats.

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Carolyn Peet

The 2009-2013 time period is surprising, as compared to the expectations we had when the first black president was elected.

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