Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Urban Poverty: It's about More Than Race

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Urban Poverty: It's about More Than Race

Article excerpt

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - To alleviate the acute joblessness that exists among inner city African Americans, the country needs a multitiered, public policy strategy that acknowledges that there is more to urban poverty than race. This was the core message of Harvard University's Dr. William Julius Wilson during his presentation at the University of Maryland College Park's College of Behavioral and Social Sciences colloquium.

Wilson is the author of "When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor," a sobering look at the impact of joblessness on inner city Chicago neighborhoods, in which he calls for a systemic public policy response that addresses the complex causes and consequences of urban joblessness

"Many of today's problems are a consequence of the disappearance of work," Wilson said. "Current levels of inner city joblessness are unprecedented," he added, citing his research which found that in Chicago during 1990, the ratio of employed to jobless persons, in a given week. in non-poverty communities was three times greater than that of neighborhoods marked by poverty.

"Joblessness doesn't mean one is totally removed from all sorts of work activity," Wilson said. "Inner city joblessness is often overlooked when the focus in on poverty...The goal of my book is to inform the public debate."

During his presentation, Wilson expressed his disappointment over the Clinton administration's complicity in the ongoing nationwide retreat from public policy strategies aimed at reducing urban poverty. Stand-alone programs, such as Clinton's welfare reform initiative, that fail to address the many contributors to inner city poverty are not enough, Wilson said. Among the contributing factors he cites are: the growing suburbanization of the job market; globalization of the economy; the absence of the Black middle-class in inner city communities; substandard educational facilities in poor neighborhoods; lack of transportation to suburban jobs; the attitudes, misperceptions and fears of employers; the scarcity of affordable of child-care; segregated housing; and the decreased opportunities for unskilled labor. …

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