Thursday, August 14, 2008

Poverty is Growing

The Dallas Morning News' article on the challenge of providing housing for poor people in suburban areas, is similar to a recently released study by the Brookings Institute , entitled, Reversal of Fortune a New Look at Concentrated Poverty in the 2000s, which looks at the impact of concentrated poverty among the working class in urban areas.

The analysis by the Institute reveals an array of issues associated with poverty in neighborhoods in which 40% or more of the residents within a given census tract are poor according to federal poverty thresholds, and suggests that gains made in erasing concentrated poverty in the 1990's have been reversed in within the past decade.

In fact the study says, "The number of tax filers nationwide living in areas with high rates of working poverty increased by 40 percent, or 1.6 million filers, between tax years 1999 and 2005. By 2005, 12.3 percent of low-income working families lived in high-working-poverty communities—ZIP codes where more than 40 percent of taxpayers claimed the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit)—up from 10.4 percent in 1999."

What that means is that poverty is growing. It is growing at a rate that cannot be accounted for by the more simplistic rationales that many use to avoid serious questions about dealing with the poor, like morality and laziness.

The study by Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube, shows the issues that face these communities in which the poor are clustered:

  • Their existence discourages private investment and, ironically, raises the cost of goods and services
  • Educational opportunity is hindered
  • Not only do these neighborhoods tend to foster higher crime rates, but they also have higher negative health outcomes
  • They inhibit wealth building. Wealth building through high home appreciation isn't a realistic expectation in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty
  • These communities generate higher costs for local governments, in areas such as welfare, public safety and health care - this type of poverty is expensive.
Do we really need more reasons to develop comprehensive, strategic approaches to redevelop distressed neighborhoods and develop programs in education, job training and economic development to strengthen these neighborhoods?

The facts are we may concentrate the poor in distressed neighborhoods - but ultimately we all feel the strain.

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