Sunday, September 18, 2005

What Newsweek Has To Say About Poverty in America

The September 19 edition of Newsweek is devoted to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One article on the issue of poverty in America is particularly insightful. Here are a few key points:

  • Poverty in America is actually getting worse
  • The poverty rate, 12.7%, is the highest in the developed world and more than twice as high as in most other industrialized countries. Note: this is a somewhat controversial statistic with some claiming the problem is not this serious
  • Even if the real number is lower than 37 million, that’s a nation of poor people the size of Canada living inside the United States
  • The poor are mostly out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Their fellow Americans know little about them
  • The United States contains more poor whites than blacks or Hispanics. However, while only a little more than 8 percent of American whites are poor nearly a quarter of all African-Americans are poor. (Whites make up 72 percent of the population while blacks make up 12 percent).
  • The primary economic problem is not unemployment but low wages for workers of all races
  • Isolation is a factor that makes poverty even worse. There is de facto segregation of the poor from the middle class.
  • The problem of poverty is often exacerbated by a subtle racism

There was one quote in the Newsweek article that particularly caught my attention. It was by a retired middle-school principal from Jefferson Parish. She said, “I have lived in the city all of my life and I didn’t realize there were so many suffering socioeconomically.”

Having worked back in the late Sixties for the anti-poverty program in the neighboring city of Baton Rouge I can understand how this can happen. I moved between two different worlds. In the mostly white middle-class community there was almost no appreciation of how people “on the other side of the track” lived.

If the Huricane Katrina disaster has a silver lining it is that many are now discovering “the other America.”

Update: A comment on a recent post raised questions about this blog. Our goal is to raise consciousness of issues of class, race and poverty in America. Mostly we'll serve as a news source...with lots of links to valuable information. We expect that the mainstream media will loose interest in these issues sooner rather than later. Fox Cable News is already back on the Natalie Halloway story.

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