price_of_citizenship.jpg (9774 bytes) The Price of Citizenship

Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Poverty and Inequality in the New American City


In the 1960s-1980s cities began hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs to the suburbs, the Sunbelt, and Third World countries.

Millions of former secure employees found themselves redundant - flotsam on the tide of industrial restructuring. Cities were hard hit and older cities were hardest hit, with the new American city serving as a reservation for the minority poor.

In the 1950s international trade consisted primarily of raw materials and resource-based manufacturing. The new international economy is: investment, banking, accounting, management consulting, law, and advertising.

Office towers have become the urban factories of the twenty-first century. Service jobs performed by the new 'servant class' are often nonunionized and do not offer the same pay or benefits as the manufacturing jobs they replaced, but are crucial to the economics and social structures of modern cities.

The spread of informal work detaches more and more people from the protections associated with steady jobs - health, unemployment, and disability insurance; workers' compensation; and pensions - at the very time when the welfare state gas restricted access to public assistance and social insurance.

Affluent urban workers have created lifestyles that depend on a large pool of low-wage workers.

Cities are full of the unemployed, the underemployed, and the marginally employed working for poverty wages, receiving few benefits, vulnerable to the moods of the economy, and hopeless about the future. Chronic joblessness. Very large numbers of people have not worked for a very long time.

For the first in American history, productivity gains did not translate into rising real wages. Instead, productivity rewarded shareholders and senior management while workers' pay stagnated. This income inequality contributed to the growth of poverty. Between 1979 and 1992, the official poverty rate grew 23.9%.

Beneath the increasing inequality and poverty lie profound changes in the structure of the American economy. The transition from manufacturing to services, the shift from permanent, full-time employment to temporary and part-time, and the growth of chronic joblessness have all helped to create a class of vulnerable Americans who cannot find economic security in work.

Economics (Summary)

In the 1960s-1980s cities began hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs to the suburbs, the Sunbelt, and Third World countries, resulting in millions of formerly secure employees finding themselves redundant.

Many cities that were hard hit emerged later on as a 'reservation for the minority poor'. Office towers have become the urban factories of the 21st century. Bifurcation has occurred resulting in the affluent urban workers creating life-styles that depend on a large pool of low-wage workers.

Due to the restructuring of the American economy inequality and poverty is prevalent. Cities are full of the unemployed, the underemployed, and the marginally employed working for poverty wages, receiving few benefits, vulnerable to the moods of the economy, and hopeless about the future. A class of vulnerable Americans who cannot find economic security in work.

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Demographic transformation played a dramatic role in the emergence of the new American city.

  • First Great Migration of African Americans to the North resulted in black ghettos emerging and expanded cities across the nation.
  • The second Great Migration reshaped the demography of cities across the country. It intensified residential segregation and by its end in the 1970s blacks started following whites in leaving central cities, moving west, even back to the South, and in modest but increasing numbers to the suburbs.
  • As blacks moved into cities whites moved out. Urban housing shortages, inexpensive suburban housing, cheap government-backed mortgages, and the interstate highway system all conspired to lure families out of cities. As a result, the African American share of central cities became increasingly poor as well as black, the association of welfare with race set in.
  • Everywhere suburban growth outstripped the growth of central cities and consequently, many older cities experienced serious depopulation. The 'institutional ghetto' emerged, an area where the institutions of criminal justice and public assistance are concentrated, emphasizing their affiliation with race, social control, and the undeserving poor.

1980s was the decade of greatest net immigration in American history. Immigrants not only arrived in greater numbers; they came from different parts of the well. The result was the largest variety of arriving nationalities in American history.

The new immigrants probably were a net economic gain for the nation, but they were a drain on state and local governments who paid most of the bills while the federal government collected most of the money.

In the welfare state, anti-immigrant sentiment was written into law in the 1996 welfare bill, which stripped even legal immigrants of the right to many social benefits.

The transformation of urban family structure also helped shape the new American city. Small households organized around work and consumption sustain revitalized entertainment and shopping districts.

In 1960, single mothers headed about 8 percent of families with children; by 1990, the proportion had increased to nearly 25 percent. The increase in single-parent families both increased public assistance rolls and instigated the backlash against them: the object of welfare critics became out-of-wedlock births rather than the poverty of poor young mothers.

Daily life in the inner city can be harrowing. Residents are beset with the uncertainty and anxiety that accompany their efforts to cope with poverty, unsafe neighbourhoods and persistent racism.

Demography (Summary)

The Great Migration of African Americans along with some of the greatest net immigration in American history have combined to reshape the demography of cities across the country. Many cities, especially the older ones, experience serious depopulation due to whites moving to suburbia when blacks and immigrants started moving in, resulting in ghettos emerging. As northern cities became increasingly poor, as well as black, the association of welfare with race, social control, and the undeserving poor set in.

Local governments found themselves hard pressed which has resulted in the 1996 welfare bill stripping even legal immigrants of the right to many social benefits.

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My Thoughts (Demography)

Concentrating people in 'ghettos' breeds inequality and racism. Acts of Congress curtailing immigration along with cooperation by industry to create new jobs and opportunities for all, in newly planned & designed communities, that encourages diversification and brotherhood of man are two primary steps that should be taken. Respecting cultural differences while at the same time building safe neighbourhoods, economic security and racial tolerance in society is do-able. Vision, political will and the means of production can create good and correct wrongs if given the chance and opportunity. Many great leaders in history have transformed their societies, some in relatively short periods of time, into utopian states that were the envy of their neighbours and the world.

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Globalized capital, electronic means of production, and uniform mass culture abhor the intimate, undisciplined differentiation of traditional cities. But they coexist easily with suburbs.

As industries as well as families left cities, suburbs became the centers of American manufacturing. Retailing and services soon followed the movement of population and manufacturing. The suburbanization of employment moves work away from inner city residents, which means that those who aced jobs the most are literally furthest away from them. Many inner-city residents depend on public assistance because they cannot get to work. The invisible walls suburbs erect to keep poor people within city limits concentrate poverty and increase the burdens on the welfare state, while suburban legislators wield their political power to reduce the public benefits that their exclusiveness helped make more necessary.

Americans migrated south and west as well as to the suburbs. The Sunbelt has enjoyed a 'boom' for several decades now, but there is a delicious irony in the conservative, antigovernment, antiwelfare politics of a region dependent upon federal spending for its growth and prosperity.

The Sunbelt's population boom tipped the balance of national political power toward the Sunbelt, thereby reducing political support for welfare state programs, such as public assistance, that did not serve the middle class and elderly.

In American cities, racial segregation - or "American apartheid" has not only persisted, but grown. Racial segregation afflicts affluent as well as poor African Americans. Segregation by itself can initiate a vicious process that concentrates poverty and intensifies its impact, and by concentrating poverty, segregation vastly increases the burdens on America's welfare state.
All levels of government share responsibility for perpetuating and intensifying racial segregation.

In addition to racial segregation, economic segregation, which exists independently of race, has also increased among African Americans - as well as among whites and Hispanics in cities of all sizes across the nation. In the 1970s, deindustrialization and sizes and rising income inequality left poor whites concentrated in urban neighbourhoods. Blacks and Hispanics caught up in the 1980s.

Gentrification - "the rehabilitation of working-class and derelict housing and the consequent transformation of an area into a middle-class neighbourhood", brought a remarkably uniform population to control cities: young, white, childless urbanites with professional or managerial jobs and above-average incomes. Gentrification was the residential arm of urban revitalization, paralleling efforts to bring corporate offices, business services, retailing, and tourism back to city centers. Losers were the poor, displeased by gentrification, facing steeper rents in tight real estate markets. The poor are continuously under pressure of displacement and the well-to-do continuously seek to wall themselves... within gentrified neighbours. In the mid-1980s, homelessness, one consequence of displacement, suddenly surfaced as a public issue. Homelessness often originates in neighbourhoods marked by poverty, unemployment, abandoned housing, overcrowding, female-headed families with young children and few social and family supports - the neighbourhoods created by the great transformations of urban economy, demography, and space.

Urban redevelopment and highway construction hastened the deterioration of local neighbourhoods and fueled a new social geography of public assistance based on the concentration of poverty into large, racially segregated, and isolated districts where residents lived in substandard housing or the new postwar public housing slums. The office tower and the high-rise public housing project are both products of post-W.W.II urban development, and they are linked causally, not accidentally.

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