It’s not all about economics

nullogo.pngCheryl Jackson, head of Chicago Urban League, had this to say about the reasons for the Pew Center’s finding of blacks not being optimistic about the future:

In recent years, as the economy boomed, the medium income of blacks declined as the percentage of white income. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. And most distressingly, African-Americans are slipping out of the middle class. White families pass on wealth. Black families do not.

More and more, one’s economic future is largely decided by what zip code one is born into. Urban communities have the worst schools, the fewest jobs and lack commerce and retail. They lack good supermarkets and fresh produce, and they are targets for redlining and predatory lending. [Source]

Although I do believe these economic factors are compelling reasons for the Pew Center’s finding, I find it odd that Jackson makes no mention of other dynamics occurring within the black community. I find it even more odd that the Chicago Urban League shifted its focus from social services to economic development based on the rationale expressed by Ms. Jackson. Providing social services alone is no solution, but just focusing on economic development seems to be equally, if not more ineffective. Consider these words by Orlando Patterson:

The circumstances that far too many African-Americans face — the lack of paternal support and discipline; the requirement that single mothers work regardless of the effect on their children’s care; the hypocritical refusal of conservative politicians to put their money where their mouths are on family values; the recourse by male youths to gangs as parental substitutes; the ghetto-fabulous culture of the streets; the lack of skills among black men for the jobs and pay they want; the hypersegregation of blacks into impoverished inner-city neighborhoods — all interact perversely with the prison system that simply makes hardened criminals of nonviolent drug offenders and spits out angry men who are unemployable, unreformable and unmarriageable, closing the vicious circle. [Source: NYT]

Can these issues by solved by social or economic interventions alone? If I were forced to choose one, I’d have to go with social services.

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3 Responses to “It’s not all about economics”


  1. 1 Darren November 16, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    I would say that there is a need for social services along with economic development. The economic development that occurs must take into account middle income blacks, rather than displace them to other areas. Having mixed income development would potentially allow middle income blacks and whites to comingle. This would attract jobs, drive up property values, and increase the tax base in the urban centers. Middle income black families would benefit from such a move. However, increasingly in America urban redevelopment in major cities focuses on the upper and upper middle classes by pricing out the middle class. This perpetuates the negative cycle within the black community by moving them to localities ill suited to deal with their social service needs.

    Additionally, by attracting upper middle class to the inner city, local governments save money on social services. While middle income families need social services, those attracted by redevelopment are often single or married without children. Thus, they have no interest in the school systems, have higher incomes that allow greater taxation (read local gov’t income), and more disposable income to drive the local economy. The local governments shift the burden of social responsibility to the next town over.

  2. 2 Mike November 17, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    I agree, mixed housing can be part of the solution. But I also think that this will only make a small dent in the larger problems of the black community. But one dent at a time…


  1. 1 Gates Breaks it Down « The Checkup Trackback on November 21, 2007 at 11:20 am

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