Ghetto poverty tracts

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When Jobs Disappear
By William Julius Wilson (1996)
Definitions
• Poverty tracts: Census tracts in which at
least 20 percent of residents live below the
poverty line.
• Ghetto poverty tracts: Census tracts in
which at least 40 percent of people are poor.
Ghetto poverty on the rise
• In major cities, 1 in 7 census tracts fits the
description of ghetto poverty.
• This is twice as many as in 1970.
• About 85% of ghetto poor are minorities.
Case study: Chicago
• Author interviews residents of ghetto
neighborhoods in Chicago’s South and West
Sides, of whom three quarters say they’d
prefer to live elsewhere.
• These were once prosperous, middle-class
neighborhoods, until the exodus of jobs to
the suburbs began.
Why jobs disappear
• Shift toward greater automation in
manufacturing, which leads to fewer lowskilled jobs
• Companies move their facilities to cheaper
suburban land, shifting remaining jobs away
from inner city.
The result of the jobs exodus
• As middle-class residents flee, these
neighborhoods become increasingly
segregated, both socially and economically.
• Commerce evaporates, infrastructure
crumbles, and unemployment skyrockets.
• The vast majority of working-age residents
in these neighborhoods are unemployed.
Employment levels in the ghetto
• In the nation’s largest
cities in a typical week in
1990, this chart shows the
number of employed
people for every 100
people who did not hold
jobs.
• Ratio of unemployed to
employed is 3 times
greater in ghetto tracts
than in non-ghetto tracts
200
180
160
140
120
100
80
60
40
20
0
Employed
persons for
every 100
persons not
working
Ghetto
tracts
Nonghetto
tracts
Wilson’s proposed solutions
• Better vocational training in high schools.
Wilson charges that high-school education
is overly focused on college preparation and
should take into greater account the needs
of people who are unlikely to attend
college.
• Government intervention to promote the
return of low- and medium-skilled jobs to
the inner city.
Where are the ghetto tracts
in Los Angeles?
• Mainly clustered between the 110 Freeway
and Alameda Street, including much of
Downtown.
• A number of ghetto tracts west of the 110,
including Pico Union and area around USC.
• A few in less obvious spots, such as on
either side of the 405 in
Westwood/Brentwood.
Poverty by census tract in L.A.
Source: Census Bureau
http://factfinder.census.gov/
Rent prices by census tract
Source: Census Bureau
http://factfinder.census.gov/
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