Urban Poverty Readings Summary/Critique These


As mentioned by several authors in these readings, however, the main issue at hand is not the wage level, but rather the employment level of the urban poor that was endemic to the situation. That is, both the availability of jobs and the desire to work in legitimate enterprises is severely limited in racially segregated urban communities, and an increase in wages does absolutely nothing to alter this pattern.

As a partial (and implicit) answer to this, Jargowski and Sawhill (2006) also contend that the massive reductions in welfare benefits promoted an increased drive to join the legitimate workforce. Though this was certainly true to some degree, it is unlikely that it had effects of the magnitude suggested by the authors. Furthermore, the "color neutrality" of welfare policy recommended by Wilson is, as Massey eloquently argued, merely a less conspicuous form of racism, and is more insidious for its lack of obviousness. Ignoring the fact that levels of employment show a high negative correlation with being African-American moves past politically correct naivete and into tacit approval of discriminatory hiring practices. The problem is not as simple as plans like affirmative action tried to make it seem, however; the low availability of jobs ensures that without a proper education viable employment is an unrealistic dream for many urban poor.

Mincy (1994) also notes the low quality of schools in his evaluation of the issue, but this detail becomes lost in the myriad of other social influences to which he attributes partial credit. It seems clear that, given the focus of both Mincy and others such as Massey, Schiller, and even Wilson note the unavailability of legitimate employment, the ability to earn higher-skilled positions is essential to stop the perpetuation of the segregation and poverty cycle. Jargowski and Sawhill (2006) also touch on this in their article, noting the higher incidence of high-school dropouts amongst those defined as the underclass. This is especially noticeable in high-poverty areas (where 40% or more of the population in a given geographical neighborhood is living below the poverty line). It is for this reason that Jargowski and Sawhill (2006) champion the destruction of high-rise low income housing and the decentralization of housing programs -- breaking up these neighborhoods, their logic goes, will limit the potential for self-perpetuation within the segregated community by scattering the community itself.

The idea that the destruction of a community will somehow lead to its betterment is beyond misleading; it is simply appalling. Though this is not the direct and explicit argument Jargowski and Sawhill make, it is the eventual result. None of the authors of these readings dare to say that, quite frankly, a population cannot be lifted out of poverty if it does not want to be. This is not to say that there are not historical and current socio0economic and cultural barriers to be overcome. Policy can only put the mechanisms in place to be utilized, however; it cannot force anyone to actually use them. Education and community activism -- that is, creating change from within -- coupled with ensuring broader and more available assistance for those that seek it is the only way to create a long-term…