Friday, January 20, 2012

Opportunity disparity

The following article appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  The author, Margaret C. Simms is a senior fellow and director of the Low-Income Working Families project at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Opportunity still has racial hue

At the march on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these now famous words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

While King made the statement about racial equality and racial justice, at some level, it is a sentiment to which all parents can relate. All parents want their children to reach their potential and not be held back by anything other than their willingness to work hard.

Children are more likely to succeed if they have a stable home environment, adequate nutrition and the opportunity to get a good education. Unfortunately, nearly 50 years after the march on Washington, opportunity still has a racial dimension. That is not to say that progress hasn’t been made in breaking racial barriers. Advancement can be seen in every dimension of American life — education, politics and economic achievement. The percentage of African-Americans that have a college education has gone up from 3.5 percent to 18 percent. The number holding political office, including the presidency, has risen from about 1,400 to more than 10,500. Black men and women have held corporate CEO positions.

Yet in many areas, African-Americans have made little progress relative to their white counterparts. Median household income for African-Americans is only 58 percent of the median white household income, little different from the ratio in the late 1960s. This disparity reflects the fact that African-Americans are more likely to be unemployed regardless of how the economy is faring and that African-American families are more likely to be headed by women. Even when you compare households with the same family structure and educational level, African-Americans aren’t as well off.

A recent Pew Research Center study showed the recession and housing market crash hit African-Americans hard, as those with any assets at all were most likely to have them in the form of homeownership. The Pew report shows that between 2005 and 2009, African-American wealth fell by 53 percent compared with a 19 percent drop for white households. As a result, the typical white household had 20 times the net worth of the typical black household in 2009, up from 11 times in 2005. This is the biggest gap seen in the 25 years that the data have been collected.

To read the entire article click here

As always, reactions invited. 


Mark said...

Three things to keep people out of poverty and not relying on the government for their lifetime: 1) finish high school, 2) get a job and keep it and 3) don't have children before you get married.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great. Makes a lot of sense. But let's say your sitting down with a 25 year old mother of 2who dropped out of high school when she got pregnant with her first child and has a sketchy work history. That advice comes too late. Now what?

Anonymous said...

You need to read my post again. It was three things to keep people OUT of poverty and not relying on gov't for their lifetime. In your scenario, she made one bad decision in HS and then compounded it by obviously getting preg again. Where's dad? Why a "sketchy work history?" She doesn't want to break the cycle. She has a history of making decisions that tell me shes content to stay sucking on the gov't teet the rest of her life.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:37 - Another thing about your scenario. Your implying that after this 25-year-old, unemployed and unwed mother of 2 has made all of these poor decisions..."now what?" Like I/we need to do something to fix or solve her problems. SHE is the one who needs to make some changes and with those changes will come benefits of being a contributing member of society.

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point. Yes, she made bad decisions as a teenager. Now she's got two kids and can't afford to take a minimum wage job, which is all she can get, since it would cost more in daycare than she would earn. Now she wants to do better, but how?

The point is: it's easy to provide soundbites about poverty. Your advice might even prove true if heeded in time. But once someone has started down that road, and there's no obvious way out, what then? Is she just SOL? Her children?

The point is there are no easy answers. Poverty is systemic and generational and harder to deal with than simply dispensing a little good advice.

Anonymous said...

If govt. assumes there are no implications for removing moral values from public life, then we get what we got.

Public schools, public housing, public healthcare, public, transportation ... no one need be judged for doing foolish and immoral things. They just need to pretend there is no moral foundation for living and continue to expect the necessities of life will be granted to them. They deserve to be taken care of.

That's why our last two generations have followed the mantra "No one can judge anyone else."

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:47 - I don't accept your scenario because it's not based on facts. According to the US Dept of Labor (and LJ's most recent post) 90% earn over $8.50. Your make believe mother of two has a 90% opportunity to find a job that pays OVER minimum wage. You ask if she’s SOL. NO, but it’s not the gov’t responsibility to do anymore than it is already doing to enable her life. The only way people will stop making very poor decisions is when the realize they will pay terrible consequences.

Anonymous said...

"The only way people will stop making very poor decisions is when the realize they will pay terrible consequences."

You haven't spent much time around teenagers, have you? That's when many of the decisions that lead to poverty are made, according to your own advice (finish HS; don't have children before marriage).

90% may earn over $8.50, but how much over? $10 an hour is $20,000 a year, gross, $18,000 after payroll taxes. $1,500 a month. Figure $650 for rent and $350 for utlities and transportation. Childcare for two costs at least $750 (assuming a discount for the second child). By my calculation she's already $250 underwater and hasn't put food on the table. Can you make those numbers work?

It seems pretty clear that, in your perfect world, she is, in fact, just SOL. If that's the world you want, you have a right to say so, just admit that's what you're saying.

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, I have spent plenty of time around teenagers, but you're not one to look at the facts. Teenagers will rise to the level of expectations. You're probably one of those who would like to dispense condoms in health class versus teaching the repercussions of poor decisions. The difference between us is that you would prop up the poor through govt subsidies and I would educate.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:38 - Leave it to NPR to tell us something we've known for years. So, would you like to use this to excuse teenagers for not keeping their room clean and/or getting preg in HS? Once again, they will rise to the level of expectations.

Anonymous said...

No offense, but you are clueless about what it means to grow up in a poor, inner city neighborhood where 20% of the girls get pregnant and 50% of all students drop out. It's not about "excusing" anything. It's about having some compassion for people who grew up in difficult environments, have few (if any) positive role models, and, yes, make some bad choices. But tossing them on the trash heap is heartless.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what an exponent is?

Anonymous said...

ex·po·nent  noun
1. a person or thing that expounds, explains, or interprets: an exponent of modern theory in the arts.
2. a person or thing that is a representative, advocate, type, or symbol of something.