Can the Cycle of Concentrated Poverty Be Broken?

A recent book examines the causes and effects of the 'persistent and long standing problem of concentrated poverty in the inner city' and offers recommendations for breaking the cycle. Do we have the commitment to fix the problem?

Joe Kriesberg examines Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress toward Racial Equality, by Patrick Sharkey, which reveals how "the negative impacts of concentrated poverty deepen as successive generations of the same family live in poor neighborhoods, especially for African American families." Among other key findings, Sharkey's analysis shows that disadvantage can be inherited, African Americans suffer significantly higher rates of downward mobility, and neighborhood improvements can dramatically raise "the economic fortunes of black youth." Another compelling finding:

The “most common pattern of neighborhood ‘improvement’ for African Americans in the 1980s entailed improvement in the economic status of residents combined with ethnic diversification in the form of a rise in Latino and foreign born newcomers.” This is very different than the “common conception of gentrification which often connotes a racial turnover where new white entrants …displace original minority residents,” writes Sharkey.

To tackle the cycle of disadvantage and its impacts, he recommends programs targeted at the neighborhood, regional, and national levels simultaneously.

"Sharkey recognizes the need for many different strategies, emphasizes the long term nature of this work, and cautions against policies that look for a quick fix," adds Kriesberg. "With all of this, Sharkey remains hopeful as there is significant evidence that we can make progress if we as a society are prepared to make a deep and durable commitment to doing so."

Full Story: Are Poor Families Stuck in Place?

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