Over the past 40 years, poverty among the inhabitants of U.S. inner cities has remained stubbornly resistant to public policy prescriptions. Government research has sought to explain urban poverty, with a wide variety of explanations put forward as the basis for policy and tending to look at the large picture. As a result, its conclusions generally argue that the poor are not much different from the rest of the population. Yet those of the lower income level comprise higher rates of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), African American and Hispanic children continued to face the highest poverty rates—more than one-quarter (25.6%) of African Americans and more than one-fifth (20.9%) of Hispanics under age 18 lived below the poverty level in 2019. African American children were more than three times as likely to be in poverty as white children (8.3%). (EPI, September, 16, 2020).
For a snapshot of some of the contributors to current urban poverty in the nation, here are some quick views down the disaster memory lane: the decade of 1980 saw the crack epidemic sweep through poor inner city neighborhoods contributing to a population decline and resulting economic decline in those areas, still felt today. The 1990’s brought an economic boom, greatly benefiting the top 10 percent of income earners, but leaving the lowest fifth of income earners vastly behind. According to the New York Times (NYT): the net worth of families in the top 10 percent jumped 69 percent, to $833,600, in 2001, a 45% greater jump than that of lowest fifth of income earners’ 24% gain to $7,900. (NYT, January 23, 2003). The 2008 housing crisis created an economic depression affecting everyone; devastating those in the lower income levels.
Pre-COVID-19, in 2019, the median Black household earned just 61 cents for every dollar of income the median white household earned (up from 59 cents in 2018), while the median Hispanic household earned 74 cents (unchanged from 2018), according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI, September, 16, 2020). Currently the COVID-19 pandemic has created another economic recession, affecting BIPOC at higher rates than Whites. According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), 43% working African American adults have been laid off or taken a pay cut, 53% of Hispanic Americans compared to 38% of Whites. (PRC, September 24, 2020).
How we can help: since 1985 the African American Christian Foundation (AACF) has helped create employment opportunities for community residents regardless of race, color, or religious affiliation. It is our mission to train and assist low-income residents of Cook County, enable them to acquire skills, while actively fostering economic opportunity and communal stability. We focus on the empowerment of the most vulnerable of our inner city residents of Chicago, youth between the ages of 16-24 by providing crucial education, job training and placement, as well as economic and social support to insure our youth clients’ success and the ability to rise out of the cycle of low income poverty. And we adapt to changes in the world such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, currently offering an innovative Virtual Information Technology Internship, an intensive training course preparing participants for immediate work in IT, office administration, and customer service, delivered completely from a virtual classroom.
While many people may vary on their stance of how and why inner-city poverty persists, it is evident that until we empower our citizens with education and employment, poverty will never truly be defeated.
EPI (September, 16, 2020). Racial Disparities in Income and Poverty Remain Largely Unchanged Amid Strong Income Growth in 2019. https://www.epi.org/blog/racial-disparities-in-income-and-poverty-remain-largely-unchanged-amid-strong-income-growth-in-2019/
NYT (January, 23, 2003). Economic Inequality Grew in 90’s Boom, Fed Reports. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/23/business/economic-inequality-grew-in-90-s-boom-fed-reports.html#:~:text=Economic%20inequality%20increased%20markedly%20as,the%20Federal%20Reserve%20released%20today.&text=By%20contrast%2C%20the%20net%20worth,rose%2024%20percent%2C%20to%20%247%2C900.
PRC (September 24, 2020). Economic Fallout from COVID-19 Continues to Hit Lower-Income Americans the Hardest. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/