June 29, 2016

Can you tackle poverty without taking on place?

Earlier this month, House Republicans released a new plan to fight poverty and social immobility. However, there is little mention of the role that place plays in perpetuating poverty or shaping economic opportunity. Growing research shows that geography plays a powerful role in determining life outcomes in the United States. This article from the Urban Institute discusses the importance of place on poverty and makes several policy recommendations.

By Solomon Greene, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and former NFG board member

Earlier this month, House Republicans released a new plan to fight poverty and help Americans move up the economic ladder. The plan begins and ends with the premise that “The American Dream is the idea that, no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and give it your all, you will succeed.” In between, however, there is scant mention of the role that place (i.e., where you come from) plays in perpetuating poverty or shaping economic opportunity.

This is a glaring omission, especially in light of the plan’s insistence on grounding poverty-reduction policies in the best available evidence. The evidence shows that geography plays a powerful role in determining life outcomes in the United States. Better understanding the mechanisms by which zip codes determine destiny and identifying effective strategies to sever the connection between poverty and place should be central to any federal antipoverty plan.

The poor are increasingly concentrated in poor neighborhoods

Since 2000, poor people have become increasingly concentrated in poor neighborhoods, a trend that has accelerated since the Great Recession. According to a recent Brookings Institution study, both the number of extremely poor neighborhoods (those with at least 40 percent of residents living below the poverty line) and the share of poor people who live in them have spiked in recent years. Nationally, the number of extreme-poverty census tracts more than doubled between 2000 and 2010-2014. And concentrated poverty increased in 67 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas since the Great Recession.

This trend coincides with a widening gap between rich and poor neighborhoods. As my colleagues Rolf Pendall and Carl Hedman recently demonstrated, the disparities between America’s most- and least-affluent neighborhoods have grown rapidly over the past two decades. They find that the rich and the poor are living farther apart geographically and in terms of neighborhood quality. These patterns concentrate poverty and privilege at the same time.

The effects of concentrated poverty are strong and lasting

Recent research also sheds light on the effects of growing up in poor neighborhoods across a broad range of life outcomes. Raj Chetty and colleagues find that children who move from a high-poverty neighborhood to a low-poverty one are far more likely to attend college and earn significantly more as adults than those who don’t move or move to another high-poverty area. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that life expectancies can differ by as much as 20 years between rich and poor neighborhoods within the same city. And Patrick Sharkey’s research demonstrates how neighborhood disadvantage is passed on from generation to generation.

This recent research reinforces earlier studies on neighborhood effects that suggest that growing up in a poor neighborhood amplifies the effects of growing up poor. As a recent Vox article evocatively framed it, research shows that living in a poor neighborhood is “like breathing in bad air; the more you’re exposed to it, the more it hurts you.”

Simply put, the evidence tells us that when tackling poverty, place matters.

How federal antipoverty policies could take on place

Recognizing the tight and powerful connection between place and poverty, a federal antipoverty plan that takes on place should at least include the following three components.

  1. Remove barriers to affordable housing development in opportunity-rich neighborhoods. Local experiments—such as those in Mount Laurel, NJ, and Montgomery County, MD—have demonstrated that siting affordable housing in wealthier communities can help lift families out of poverty by giving them access to better schools and neighborhood amenities.
  2. Improve housing mobility, allowing recipients of housing assistance greater choice in where they live. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development recently proposed changing how it sets values for federal housing vouchers, a change that research suggests could help people move to neighborhoods with lower poverty rates. However, landlord discrimination against voucher holders is prevalent in many places. Federal protections against source-of-income discrimination might be necessary to realize the full potential of the voucher program to lift families out of poverty.
  3. Invest in comprehensive revitalization strategies in poor neighborhoods. The Urban Institute has documented lessons learned from decades of place-based investments by the federal government. We found that the most effective strategies work both horizontally (integrating efforts across policy domains within a neighborhood) and vertically (activating city, state, and federal policy levers and resources).

But perhaps most fundamentally, policymakers and advocates can use place as an additional lens through which to evaluate federal antipoverty policies. Are policies designed not only to lift individuals out of poverty, but also to improve the places in which poor people live? How much do new policies reverse decades of federal policies that divided the country along lines of race and class and trapped the poor in neighborhoods deprived of decent schools, healthy foods, safe streets, and quality housing?

To realize the American Dream of equal opportunity and upward mobility, this may be just the place to begin.

This article originally appeared on Urban Wire as found here

Find More By:

News type: 
December 10, 2018

Welcome to the new NFG website!

Thank you for visiting Neighborhood Funders Group's new website! We've completely redesigned and improved how it works to make it easier than ever for our members to use as an online resource.

We're currently in soft launch mode before we publicly announce the new site in 2019, so thanks for taking an initial sneak peek! Please excuse our digital dust as we finish testing all of the features of our new website. You can find a temporary archive of our old site at old.nfg.org.

What new features can you find on the site?

  • Search the entire website for news, events, and resources using the search bar at the top of every page
  • See where all of the members of our national network are based, right on our member map 
  • Discover more related content, tagged by topic and format, at the bottom of every page
  • Look up NFG member organizations in our member directory
  • Log in to view individual contacts in the member directory and register for events in the future

If your organization is an NFG member, first check to see if your account has already been created for you. Click "Forgot Password" on the log in page and try entering your work email address to activate your account and set your password.

Let us know at support@nfg.org if you come across any issues logging in, or anywhere else on the site. Stay tuned for our official launch announcement, and thanks for visiting!

Find More By:

News type: 
January 22, 2019

Welcome Faron McLurkin, Sr. Program Manager of the Integrated Rural Strategies Group

Faron McLurkinFaron McLurkin has joined NFG’s staff as the Senior Program Manager for the Integrated Rural Strategies Group (IRSG), which brings together funders working to build long-term support for rural organizing infrastructure that centers values of racial justice and builds sustainable power in rural communities. 

Faron was a founding member of IRSG in his former role as Program Officer at the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock (Veatch). During his time at Veatch, Faron oversaw its New York state and Environmental Justice portfolios. He has also served as the Executive Director of the Center for Third World Organizing, one of the oldest racial justice organizations in the country, and as a national organizing director for several unions.

In his new role leading IRSG, Faron will utilize his background in political education, philanthropic grantmaking, and organizing for social change to help drive the growth and advancement of the group’s programming. His focus will include developing programming for funder audiences to promote rural organizing opportunities; creating vehicles for moving resources to support rural communities; and identifying grantmaking strategies, grantees, and partners in the field to inform this group’s work.

To learn more about IRSG and how to get involved, get in touch with Faron at faron@nfg.org
 

Find More By:

News type: