Living in Poverty, When “Poverty” is a Place

In the last decade, concentrated poverty has gotten significantly worse. In some regions of the country, over a third of residents now live in what are called “poor neighborhoods.” A Slate writer took a look at the 2010 Census data:

In 2010, the overall U.S. poverty rate was about 15 percent. However, about a quarter of all Americans lived in a so-called “poverty area”—defined as a census tract where more than 20 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. … The problem was especially severe in Appalachia and across the South and Southwest, where in most states 30 percent or more of all residents lived in these communities. 

As recently as a decade ago, the situation was much less dire: in 2000, around 18% of the total US population lived in “poor neighborhoods.” Now over 25% of us do. 15% of all Americans — and an unconscionable 21.8% of all children – live in poverty (“In 2012, 73.7 million American children represented 23.7% of the total U.S. population, but made up a disquieting 34.6% of Americans in poverty and a full 35% of Americans living in deep poverty”). Increasingly it seems Poverty is an actual place where Americans live, packed together in isolation, forced to cope with fewer resources, fewer services, fewer jobs, more violence, and the kind of high walls that make Poverty difficult to escape. Metaphorically speaking.

An unrelated article by several economists in Slate suggests that, on a local level, at least, people are acting: towns, even or especially less affluent ones, are doing like Denmark

Looking at Pay Fairness Through Jobs I’ve Had

I was accumulating money without working very hard, so clearly something was wrong with the system; and not realizing yet that it wasn't my pay but my expenses that were anomalous, I assumed that somewhere, a mistake had been made. After all, I would have been willing to do the work for $10 an hour. Where was this market efficiency I kept hearing about?