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Hearing the Voices of Urban Poverty Mary Jo Bane Notre Dame December 2 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "Hearing the Voices of Urban Poverty Mary Jo Bane Notre Dame December 2 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hearing the Voices of Urban Poverty Mary Jo Bane Notre Dame December 2 2012

2 Poverty in the United States 2011 46 million Americans counted as poor Fifteen percent of all Americans Diverse racially. Of the poor: – 23 percent African Americans – 29 percent Latinos – 42 percent non-Hispanic white

3 Diverse by region: – 16 percent in the Northeast – 20 percent in the Midwest – 40 percent in the South – 25 percent in the West. Diverse by city/ suburbs/ non-metro: – 43 percent in central cities – 40 percent in suburbs – 17 percent in non-metropolitan areas.

4 Today’s focus: African- American and Latino poor in central cities: about 30 percent of all the poor in 2011.

5 Urban poverty is neighborhood poverty. Segregation by race and economic status lead to concentrations of the poor in poor neighborhoods.



8 Especially for African-Americans, urban poverty in a vicious circle, with three components: -- Work -- Family formation -- Incarceration. Each of these three components influences and is influenced by the others and by neighborhood poverty.

9 Work and Joblessness

10 Of poor African American males ages 18-64, 62 percent did not work in 2011. The structure of the American economy has shifted away from low-skilled manufacturing jobs and toward service jobs demanding higher education levels and/or interpersonal skills. Employers often shy away from hiring African American men.

11 Voices of Employers A suburban drug store manager to interviewer: “It’s unfortunate but, in my business I overall [black men] tend to be known to be dishonest. I think that’s too bad but that’s the image they have.” The president of an inner-city manufacturing firm: “If somebody gave me their address, uh, Cabrini Green I might unavoidably have some concerns….that the poor guy would be frequently unable to get to work…and I probably would watch him more carefully even if it wasn’t fair. WJ Wilson, More than Just Race

12 Voices of Young Men Peter: “ I’ve been eagerly pursuing a job. It’s almost like they’ve eluded me. I’ve worked one job that short time….And so I do want a job and I have searched for a job. I would go back to school but the financial [cost of school] is too much.” Dennis speaking of his friends: “They ain’t got no desire for getting ahead in life….they out here running around drinking every day, thinking about what they can take from somebody.” Alford Young, The minds of Marginalized Young Men

13 A 35-year old unemployed male: “And what am I doing now? I’m a cocaine dealer—cause I can’t get a decent-ass job. So what other choices do I have?” A 25-year old unmarried father: “Four years I been out here trying to find a steady job. Going back and forth all these temporary jobs and this ‘n’ that. Then you know you gotta give money at home….Well, lately like I said I have been trying to make extra money….I have been selling drugs lately on the side after I get off work….You can make more money dealing drugs than your job anyway.” WJ Wilson, When Work Disappears

14 Family Formation

15 Of the poor in 2011: – 36 percent were in married couple and male householder families – 36 percent were in female householder families – 29 percent were in non family households. Of poor African American children, 78 percent were in female headed families.

16 Forty-one percent of all births in 2010 were to unmarried women; 73 percent of births to African-American women; about 50 percent of births to white women with less than high school educations. Children are highly valued in these communities. Mothers believe that the best time to have children is when they are young. Less educated mothers have fewer reasons to put off having children, since they have fewer alternative opportunities.

17 Marriage is valued and desired, but not considered necessary for becoming a parent or being a good parent. Poor men and women put off marriage until they feel themselves economically settled. Poor women often do not see the men in their communities as desirable marriage partners. Jobless men, incarcerated men and men with criminal records are seen as less desirable marriage partners.

18 Voices of Poor Women About when to get married: “If he doesn’t have a job, I want him to go get a job….I think he should stay home and take care of [the baby], not go out and party all the time with his friends….I wanna have a real job….I wanna have a nice-sized house.” “I’m not gonna do nothing, like make any promises that I’m not gonna be able to keep.” Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas. Promises I Can Keep

19 About motherhood: “To be honest, I was happy [when I found out].” “Four months into the relationship I wound up pregnant. I was like, ‘Oh no, I don’t believe in abortion.’ I was talking about giving the baby away but I couldn’t do it. I was like ‘I’ll struggle, I don’t care, I’ll do it by myself.’” “Someday I’m going to plan my pregnancies like white [middle-class] women do. You know… You have your fancy house, your career all set, and then maybe you’ll have a baby.” Edin and Kefalas, Promises I Can Keep

20 Incarceration

21 2.3 million Americans are in prison or jail; 1/100 adults. Current American incarceration rates are unprecedented historically or comparatively. About a third of young African American high school dropouts are in prison or jail. Two thirds of these young men will have been in prison or jail before they reach their thirties.

22 Crime is more common in poor, urban minority communities. Poor, urban, minority young men are more likely than others to be arrested and incarcerated. Some young men turn to crime—especially drug and property crimes—because of the lack of other income-generating opportunities.

23 Mass incarceration has been devastating for poor minority communities. A quarter of all black children will have a parent incarcerated at some point during their childhood. A prison record makes it much more difficult for a young man to get a job or succeed economically. Incarceration depresses marriage rates in poor communities.

24 Voices on Incarceration “Well, for one thing, like on the street where I live, we’ve got the drugs, we’ve got the prostitution and all of that, and we have the police riding by…and when they get one off the street, they incarcerate them, that’s good.” “Sometimes when they go to prison one time is enough, and then, you know, they try to make amends when they come out, and then again you’ve got some that go in there and it makes it worse when they come out.”

25 “A lot of them change once they go into a penal institution. They go. Their minds are changed….They come back to the community and they want to be productive citizens, but they don’t get an equal chance, they don’t get an opportunity, because there are so many strikes against them.” “It affects the whole family….There are no positive role models in the community other than a lot of the offenders that have children, and it’s basically being passed down.” Todd Clear, Imprisoning Communities

26 Breaking Vicious Circles

27 Through Public Policy Education and opportunity Jobs A more sensible criminal justice system Housing and community building

28 Through non-profits, religious communities and social enterprises: Programs for children and youth Programs for adults. Through community organizing.

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