Social Factors Affecting Inner City Poverty
Poverty has stricken the country with thousands of inner city families facing dilemmas that contribute to their inability to reach a higher economic social status. Each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues updates for the U.S. Federal Poverty Measure. These updates report thresholds that determine eligibility for particular federal programs, and also is used to set an income measure which allows the National Census Bureau to estimate the percentage of the population who are indeed suffering from poverty (The 200 HHS Poverty Guidelines). These poverty-stricken homes have very few ways to escape the economic trap that they are in. Forty-two percent of all poor live in metropolitan areas of 300,000 or more (Harris 12). By examining the factors that affect the poverty within America’s inner cities, one can easily see the economic damage that each can cause. Three major factors that affect poverty in the inner cities are the lack of educational and occupational opportunities to those who live in the communities, racial and economic segregation, and governmental ignorance and abandonment of the urban communities.
Over twenty percent of all children under age eighteen are now living in poverty (12). Impoverished students tend to have much lower test scores, higher dropout rates, fewer students in demanding classes, less well-prepared teachers, and a low percentage of college-bound students (Orfield 56). “More parental involvement in active learning (including programs that teach parents how to help and teach their children) should be fundamental in improving the system” (Dreir 114). Without the education or skills to obtain a job, these students will most likely fall into the trap that poverty has already set upon them. “The federal government must train the people of the inner cities. The only way to stay permanently out of poverty is to be well trained to attract high-wage, high skill, and high productive jobs.” In February of 1997 the total unemployment rate in the U.S. was 4.7 percent (Harris 10). The government must stimulate national economic growth and create jobs (with the goal of full-employment economy), focusing major investments in the national physical infrastructure (Dreir 111). The lack of educational and occupational opportunities places economic restraints on those who might otherwise succeed financially and become productive members of society.
Racial and economic segregation is another important factor affecting inner city poverty. Ghettos are signified by “an older central-city area surrounded by expanding, more affluent suburbs with the central city area disproportionately African American, Hispanic, and Asian, while suburban communities have remained disproportionately white (Kerner). Sub-urbanization, which is the increase of outlying suburban communities, has permitted whites to satisfy liberal ideals revolving around activist government, while keeping to a minimum the number of blacks and the poor who share in government largess (Edsel 107). The populations of today’s ghetto neighborhoods are almost exclusively made up of the most disadvantaged segments of the black urban community (Wilson 19). Not only are ghettos racially predominant, they are underclass communities typified by high rates of family disruption, welfare dependence, crime, mortality, and educational failure (Massey 329). There are less effective institutions such as schools and local government offices, weaker informal networks like community outreach programs, and social milieus that discourage collective supervision and responsibility, as well (Quane et. Al, Ch.4). The residents in the racial ghettos are also significantly less healthy than most other Americans. They suffer from higher mortality rates, higher incidence of major diseases, and lower availability and utilization of medical services (Kerner 1968). To state this fact otherwise, the residents of these racial ghettos must overcome a number of factors that have subjected them to the poverty stricken areas of our inner cities. In order for one to work, one must be healthy, yet proper medical treatment cannot be obtained without economic stability that employment provides. The poverty cycle keeps these residents in their present economic state, and therefore contributes to the problem, causing future generations to fall into the same economic social class.
The third and likely the most disturbing factor affecting inner city poverty is governmental ignorance and abandonment. Politics have entered a “suburban century in which candidates for national office can ignore urban America without paying a political price” (Schneider 1992). The cities have been abandoned. Neither party sees any value in making this issue part of their campaign. The number of congressional members who represent cities is declining while the number representing suburbs is increasing. The suburban congressional members may have some personal sympathy for the urban economic crisis, but have less motivation to vote for spending their constituents’ tax dollars to alleviate these urban problems (Boger 80). “[T]hese politicians make entire careers out of protecting their constituents’ from the spillover of urban social disorder (Barnes 1991). The consequences of inattention are seen everyday: growing poverty, homelessness, violent crime, and infant mortality; widening racial and economic segregation; crumbling infrastructure; and deepening of fiscal traumas (Dreir 91). “Federal policymakers must recognize that rebuilding urban neighborhoods requires direct investment to compensate for decades of disinvestment” (111). These policies should include changes in governance and school funding (to narrow disparities between poor and wealthy localities)” (115). “Institutional withdrawal and collapse not only rob inner cities of the services they need, they knock out the props that sustain a viable public life and the possibility of community” (Katz 1992).
By examining these three factors, one can easily see the damage caused by each one and the fact that each one overlaps the other in contributing to the economic crisis in inner cities. The lack of educational and occupational opportunities explains itself, in that there are very few choices that those in poverty have to better their economical state. With such a minimal number of choices for economical stability, the chances of those living in poverty will increase with time. Racial and economic segregation involves areas, which do not have the institutions, nor any other public network, which, in some cases, might provide some economic relief. The communities are segregated racially and economically, which causes a cycle that continues to regenerate the poverty levels within these communities. The abandonment and ignorance of urban community crises by government officials prevents the restoration of not only the physical aspects of the community, but the economic aspects, as well. The residents of inner city communities have lost their voice in their government, and therefore suffer at the hands of their nation. By ignoring and abandoning these urban inner cities, the government has offered no escape or refuge from the level of economic state that these individuals suffer in. These three factors greatly affect the poverty within this country’s inner cities. It is only by providing the necessities for a strong future, that these Americans can hope for relief from the economic restraints that have been befallen them. By providing educational and occupational opportunities for those living in poverty, recognizing the restraints caused by segregating their communities, and providing a voice in the governmental offices, the individuals suffering from poverty levels in the urban inner cities could possibly substantially better their economic social state.
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