Urban Poverty Readings Summary/Critique
These readings examine the relationship between race and poverty, especially in urban settings that present a setting of de fact segregation. Mincy and others note the social reinforcement of certain poverty-perpetuating attitudes and behaviors in urban poor communities, which still have a predominantly African-American population (Mincy 1994; Massey, 1990; Jargowsky & Sawhill 2006). Specifically, the jobless rate among males living in ethnically segregated urban is noted by these authors as a major contributing factor — if not the primary factor — in continued poverty along dramatically racialized lines. Mincy (1994) also notes that this naturally results in higher rates of federal assistance and criminality as a primary means of subsistence in these families, and this state of affairs is self-perpetuating in the way it isolates members of such communities from mainstream society and provides inadequate role models for future generations, even insofar as actively discouraging traditional employment.
Other explanations for the “hypersegregation” of African-Americans in inner-city communities are proffered by others, including either conscious or unconscious white avoidance of African-Americans and even outright racism (Massey 1990). This in turn has led to the development of a “black English vernacular” that has also contributed to joblessness and increased social and cultural isolation. This vernacular speech is also another method of encouraging and perpetuating isolation from mainstream society, and reinforces the cultural onus against mainstream employment and overall integration. Massey goes on to note that the current official and unofficial “color-blindness” of cultural and socio-economic policy is simply another form of institutionalized racism, as it ignores the fact hat urban poverty is predominantly a racial problem (Massey 1990). Wilson (1996) examines how the phenomenon of de facto segregation is repeated on both macro and micro levels of society, in turn trickling down to affect individual psychology and social determinations in a perpetuation of the African-American and urban poor underclass.
Wilson (1996) traces the development of this underclass to the transition into a post-industrial society, which led to a dramatic decrease in the availability of low-skilled employment that had a hugely disproportionate effect on the African-American community. Low income housing efforts by the federal government have only exacerbated social stigmas regarding moving out of segregated urban poor neighborhoods. Schiller (2008) disagrees in part with such assessments, claiming that external and peripheral forces are more responsible for the observed segregation than intracultural phenomena. Finally, Jargowski and Sawhill (2006) find evidence that leads them to believe that the issues are not perpetuated at all, but are rather being effectively combated through social and economic programs, leading to a reduction of the underclass.
It is quite clear from the data presented in these disparate articles that race is still very much central to the issue of poverty, especially in urban settings. Furthermore, the self-perpetuation of such conditions — through forces such as lack of education, lack of examples from parental generations, and even cultural stigmas against mainstreaming — is fairly well established. The reasons behind the unofficial segregation that occurs in urban communities can never be fully and certainly known, but it is quite clear that such segregation exists and is detrimental.
Jargowski and Sawhills (2006) findings that the problems of poverty and racially segregated urban poor communities are actually reversing are misguided at best, and deliberately misleading at worst. First,.