Finding 8: Increase in Household Density. The density of persons per household in Jefferson-Chalmers increased in 1990 by 10 percent to 2.91 persons per household, as compared to 2.64 persons in 1980. This increased density, at a time when overall birth rates were declining, is a predictable result of doubling-up.
To "stay afloat," Detroiters in Jefferson-Chalmers, and other Americans like them, select and combine a variety of survival strategies. These may involve: (1) wage-work in the mainstream economy, as enjoyed by those Chrysler workers who were called back to assemble the Jeep Grand Cherokee at the new Jefferson North Assembly Plant; (2) public assistance, such as aid to dependent children, which is collected by many single parents; (3) poverty-wage work or involvement in an "underground economy," such as year-round windshield washing near freeway entrances and other busy intersections, criminal activity related to drugs or alcohol, and reciprocity--all typically unreported to tax authorities.
The rate of household experience with unemployment can be very high in communities like Jefferson-Chalmers. The aggregate unemployment rate in that community appears to be the chief factor in promoting helping-behaviors among all residents. For example, 45 percent of all households in the Jefferson-Chalmers random sample experienced unemployment during the three recession years preceding the 1977 survey.
An oft-repeated strategy in Jefferson-Chalmers and similar communities is the commencement of low-paying, service-sector employment after the disappearance of higher-paying union-shop employment. Low-seniority, unskilled industrial workers who never regained the jobs from which they were laid off in years past can now be found working for minimum wage in fast-food restaurants near those same industrial work sites, or working as "rent-a-cops" at nearby clinics and check- cashing stores.
An emerging pattern of repeated deindustrialization, unemployment, and racial discrimination can decimate a community's stock of affordable housing. After 1970, for example, bulldozing, burning, and abandonment reduced Jefferson-Chalmers' housing stock by 30 percent. Almost all of this demolition took place in the census tract closest to the Chrysler factory--the part of the community that had housed African Americans the longest. Once set in motion, these processes increase the risk of poverty and homelessness for everyone in the community. Low-income housing, public transportation, and child care are unprofitable and are relegated to the margins of any for-profit economy. Yet deficiencies in these areas, as in primary health care, consign many of the poor in Jefferson-Chalmers to joblessness, poor health, and homelessness.
A pivotal strategy for Detroiters, who are long accustomed to the fluctuations
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Publication information: Book title: There's No Place like Home:Anthropological Perspectives on Housing and Homelessness in the United States. Contributors: Anna Lou Dehavenon - Editor. Publisher: Bergin & Garvey Publishers. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 46.
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