Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Graph You Must See Before You Can Understand America

Is the United States a place of opportunity for all? Is social mobility high or low? Is class now a more important dividing line than color? Do Whites continue to experience privilege based on their skin color? Has the legacy of state-sponsored racial discrimination been overcome? What causes poverty in the United States? Are there different kinds of poverty? What are the solutions? What is my responsibility? What is the government's responsibility? What do the places we live have to do with these questions? Before you can hope to answer any of these questions, before having much of any opinion about anything in American society, this is the graph you must meditate on:
It shows the characteristics of the communities Black and White children grow up in. Communities in which 30% or more of the residents are poor are almost never experienced by White children, but they are routine experiences for Black children. The takeaway: Black kids are 30x more likely to grow up in communities of concentrated poverty. The graph is from Patrick Sharkey's recent book, Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality. The graph is even more powerful in the context of his broader argument. More commentary to come as I work through the book.

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