Arnold Kling  

"Concentrated Poverty" Declines

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Paul A. Jargowsky found that "concentrated poverty" (people living in high-poverty neighborhoods) declined by 24 percent in the United States in 1990's. In contrast, he says that from 1970 to 1990 poverty became more concentrated spatially.


Based on the trend of prior decades, one might have reasonably assumed that high-poverty neighborhoods were an unavoidable aspect of urban life and would continue to grow inexorably in size and population. The latest evidence contradicts this gloomy assessment.

For Discussion. The author reports that the steepest declines in concentrated poverty occurred in the Midwest and the South. Could that be explained by the relatively lower rate of foreign immigration into those regions?


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CATEGORIES: Growth: Consequences



COMMENTS (7 to date)
David Thomson writes:

“Could that be explained by the relatively lower rate of foreign immigration into those regions?”

I fail to get the connection. What does the aspect of foreign immigration have to with anything? My hometown in Houston, Texas has many immigrants from across the globe. These people have only added to our overall wealth. They are definitely not a drain on our economy! These folks are improving their situation almost daily. Their children are quickly assimilated and actively pursue the American dream.

This is not India where one is doomed to live out an existence almost totally dictated by their being born in a certain religion or class. Our meritoric society offers individuals many opportunities for advancement. The likely determining factors for success are family stability, the valuing of ongoing and never ending education for both sexes, and an indispensable work ethic. Inevitably, those families lacking these values will be left behind. I simply see this as ho-hum common sense and readily observable.

Eric writes:

As the Midwest and the South have relatively less socialistic governments than the Northeast and the West, one would expect to find a more dynamic economy there.

And that is exactly what one has found.

See Australian Secretary to the Treasury Ken Henry's comments about the Australian welfare state and how it impacts his country's participation rate. It is the same phenomenon. Socialism subsidizes poverty. One shouldn't be surprised that poverty grows when it is subsidized!

Arnold Kling writes:

I agree with David that immigrants add to wealth in the long term. However, in the short run, they start out at the bottom of the ladder. My guess is that among people who were in this country as of 1990, the rate of poverty fell sharply. In fact, the data in Cox and Alm's "Myths of Rich and Poor" suggests to me that the poverty rate fell sharply for existing families even in the 1970's, when the economy as a whole did not do so well.

David Thomson writes:

“Socialism subsidizes poverty. One shouldn't be surprised that poverty grows when it is subsidized!”

Heck, why are we focussing on recent immigrants? Let’s just look at the plight of the American Indian. It is very fair to assert that welfare dependency has caused our original immigrants enormous grief. And yes, I am also convinced that welfare benefits inadvertently subsidize poverty. The greatest threat to the upward mobility of America’s immigrants is indeed almost certainly a welfare check in the mail.

“However, in the short run, they start out at the bottom of the ladder.”

The “long run” today seems to be much shorter. In Houston, I witness virtually everyday Hispanic immigrants who can barely speak English earning money as mere humble office cleaners---drive their own automobiles to work! Trust me, these people do not stay in demeaning poverty for very long. Thankfully, it is also very difficult to obtain welfare benefits in Texas.

Eric writes:

It never ceases to amaze me that job market dynamism is inversly proportional to job market regulation, especially when you include taxation.

The libs love to talk about how great Europe is, with all the "perks" that the government provides. But no one likes to talk about the sheer unemployment over there, especially youth unemployment. Somebody pays for all that government intervention, and it is the young who suffer.

David Thomson writes:

I have had a few days to think about my original postings regarding this issue. There are two aspects, I now realize, that are mandatory if somebody is to pull themselves out of poverty:

1.) Welfare benefits must be very hard to obtain. Those living in poverty cannot be allowed to become parasites. These people must be treated with dignity and not perceived as alleged victims of an exploitative capitalistic system.

2.) Opportunities for advancement must be at least reasonably available. The overall economy doesn’t have to be fantastic, but it must offer a modest hope for economic betterment.

I wonder if any studies back up my theories. Would anyone know?

Tom writes:

"I wonder if any studies back up my theories."

David, while people tend to look for data that confirms their more complex theories like yours, that is a mistake. You would be likely to suffer from confirmation bias. Instead, you should be looking even harder for reasons and data why your theories might be wrong (or at least crucially incomplete).

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