2.27.2009

Concentrated Poverty


The Federal Reserve Bank just put out a nice report called "The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America" [warning: large pdf]. Of course, it stinks to have no money; but from a broader, public policy standpoint, concentrated poverty is of particular concern, because the concentration of lots of people with no money is bad for both the impoverished and those around them.

The 16 neighborhoods featured in this report run the gamut of geographies, sizes, and demographic mixes. But there are a few running themes: history matters (disadvantage clusters over time), isolation is bad (physical, social, racial/linguistic), demographic jolts are often concurrent (an increase in immigrant and/or single-parent families, for example), and overall regional growth isn't always enough (if a region is too sprawling, poor people can't get to economic opportunity).

The solutions are easy to identify and hard to implement: fix the schools, provide housing, stimulate investment, build organizing capacity, and restore trust in institutions. From Native American reservations in New Mexico and Montana to ghettos in Cleveland and Milwaukee, from Little Haiti in Miami to destitute neighborhoods in the shadow of gleaming casinos in Atlantic City, residents and the organizations fighting for them treat concentrated poverty not like an interesting policy topic but an oppressive and seemingly unbeatable reality. For them, here's hoping that our global recovery comes swiftly, and that its effects reach far enough.
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