On the Suburban South's Troubling Poverty

Land use and transportation planning decisions provide a framework on which other social policies have created particularly isolating and intractable poverty in the South.

2 minute read

January 5, 2016, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

The fourth article in a series published last month by The Washington Post focuses on the barriers of access that make the poverty of the American South particularly isolating and difficult to overcome.

The author of the article, Chico Harlan, begins with story of Lauren Scott, a homeless, 28-year-old mother, relying on public transit to find a new job in Atlanta. On the day Harlan followed her, Scott's job search require 69 stops on a bus, a nine-minute train ride, another 49 stops on a bus, and a quarter-mile walk. According to Harlan, "this was a day much like the others, when the cost of destitution was a job hunt in which even the simplest task — placing an application — required four hours, round-trip, on a bus."

Here Harlan sums up the roots of the daily challenge faced by Scott and others like her:

"In the metropolitan areas of the Deep South, government policies and rising real estate prices have pushed the poor out of urban centers and farther from jobs. Low-income people have, in turn, grown more reliant on public transit networks that are among the weakest of quality in the country. When they search for work, they step into a region where pay tends to be low and unemployment tends to be high."

The magazine feature-style article focuses a lot more on Scott's experience of falling into poverty in the service of making large points about the unique qualities and causes of poverty in the contemporary South—a particularly isolating form of poverty exacerbated by the structure and systems of Southern communities.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016 in The Washington Post

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