Survey Finds Solutions to Addressing Poverty in Local Economic Development Initiatives
Furdell, Phyllis, Nation's Cities Weekly
Early findings in a National League of Cities examination of urban conditions and poverty have revealed that local economic development activities may have important but overlooked potential as a strategy to break the chokehold of poverty.
The prospects for linking economic development and poverty reduction, along with examining new approaches for developing local strategies, will be the subject matter of a new NLC project, funded by a three-year grant from The Ford Foundation.
"NLC's research program has been breaking important new ground in the way local officials and national policy leaders perceive the dynamics and the interrelationships of local economies," said NLC Executive Director Donald J. Borut. "This marks an important extension of and new direction for that work."
Information gathered in a survey of 639 municipal leaders in 188 cities with populations over 100,000 found a strong tendency among local officials to view economic development as an activity focusing on overall job creation and tax base enhancement -- not necessarily techniques to reduce poverty.
When asked about the causes of poverty, however, the top three responses were all related to conditions in the labor market: inadequate worker skills or education, long-term shortages of job opportunities, and low or poverty-level wages.
"These responses suggest that activities that have traditionally been looked at and dealt with in relative isolation could conceivably double or tripple their effectiveness by building linkages in their design," said William R. Barnes, director of NLC's Center for Research and Program Development.
The new NLC Project on Urban Poverty, Economic Development, and Cities is especially timely for a number reasons. Economic changes in cities over recent decades have worsened the conditions for many of the urban poor. …