Academic journal article Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy

Combating Poverty within the Black Community: Conservative Policy Initiatives Hold Potential Solutions

Academic journal article Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy

Combating Poverty within the Black Community: Conservative Policy Initiatives Hold Potential Solutions

Article excerpt

While the 2008 Great Recession rocked the world?s fiscal foundation, certain sectors of the U.S. population disproportionately took the brunt of the hit and have been supremely disturbed. Black Americans have been particularly impacted in a remarkably short amount of time. According to the University of Massachusetts? Political Economy Research Institute, ?The Great Recession produced the largest setback in racial wealth equality in the United States over the last quarter century.? With more than one-quarter of America?s Black population currently struggling with poverty, this issue requires an immediate and thoughtful response from policy makers.

In order to combat the truly staggering poverty levels, it is essential for policy makers to reevaluate the causes of poverty in order to determine more effective means of combating it. To create a successful strategy for decreasing poverty levels in African American communities, major federal policy initiatives should include two groups whose voices have not been heard in the past: conservative politicians and local community leaders. Political dialogue between conservatives and liberals must be dramatically improved especially since conservative leaders have demonstrated an ability to foster particularly useful approaches in the battle against poverty. Individual grassroots leaders have employed techniques based on firsthand experience that have also proved successful. Local community leaders? personal experiences provide valuable information that must be incorporated into efforts targeting poverty. The poverty experienced by Black Americans is simply too drastic to ignore. Future poverty campaigns should utilize knowledge from both sides of the nation?s political spectrum and incorporate this community knowledgebase.

Economic data reveals the harsh impact of the Great Recession of 2008 on Black Americans. A 2013 U.S. Census Bureau study focusing on poverty rates by race concluded that 14.3 percent of Americans fell below the poverty line between 2007 and 2011; however, while 11.6 percent of White Americans currently struggle with poverty, more than a quarter of the Black population has fallen into poverty at a whopping 25.8 percent.1 According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute, in 2004, the median net worth of White households was $134,280, with Black households' median net worth at $13,450.2 Come 2009, the median net worth for White households had fallen only 24 percent, compared to Black household net worth, which plummeted a full 83 percent, to $2,170. Historically, when it comes to the Black community, poverty rates and national economic status are closely aligned. As noted in a Washington Post article on 11 July 2012, White poverty rates remain steady withstanding the influence of larger economic trends while Black poverty rates are linked with the nation's fiscal standing. As illustrated in Figure 1, the number of Blacks below the poverty line fell and rose in concurrence with both the economic boom of the 1990s and the 2008 recession. This suggests that when the nation undergoes economic strain, Black Americans take the brunt of the hit.

Black Americans' economic susceptibility to downturns appears to be due to a host of related challenges, including a high rate of concentrated poverty. According to a 2013 article from the Economic Policy Institute, 45 percent of poor Black children live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, compared to only 12 percent of poor White children.4 This article further highlights that concentrated poverty is coupled with a variety of severe social issues currently plaguing the Black community. Children living in these conditions not only "experience more social and behavioral problems, have lower test scores, and are more likely to drop out of school,"5 but also are exposed to various "environmental hazards that impact health."6

Another severe issue within poorer cities is heightened crime rates, which explains why Black youth have some of the highest homicide mortality rates. …

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