This weekend’s NPR Economy podcast, featured a piece from Karen Grigsby Bates discussing Urban Institute’s recently released report on Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s original study on the ills causing poverty in Black America.
What they found is something that I have experienced growing up in my neighborhood and at the crux of all of my community-organizing work. It’s almost been over half a century, and the same socioeconomic disparities within America remain relatively the same today.
\“If we let kids grow up in poverty, in single families, going to bad schools, they’re going to grow up to become dependent adults. The cycle will just repeat,\” said Gregory Achs of Urban Institute on the podcast.
And in fact, that cycle has been on repeat for one cycle too many.
A desire to combat systemic poverty is one of the reasons that I came to work for Living Cities. Whether it is our Strive Initiative that addresses the cradle-to-career pipeline or our integrative collaborative change initiatives with decision-makers from the public, private, philanthropic and non-profit sectors on the ground, we are working to address the very problems that Achs eloquently speaks to on the podcast.
Urban Institute’s conclusions primarily focus on several of the main problems allowing poverty to persist today - unemployment, public schooling, lack of vocational training, and the biased justice system against blacks. In order to overcome these obstacles, the report proposes three areas to be addressed with support from federal, state, local, and individuals: reducing the structural barriers to black economic progress; enhancing incentives for working in the mainstream economy; and improving family dynamics.
As I listened to this podcast on the train-ride into Manhattan, it struck me that our recently released “State of the Cities: 5 Trends Impacting America’s Cities” provides some innovative takes on how to address the systemic issues that have persisted since Sen. Moynihan’s time.
The five trends we highlight in our State of the Cities paper - municipal fiscal strain, inadequate infrastructure, poor educational outcomes, the skills/jobs mismatch, and the struggling housing market, will continue to affect our cities and low-income communities if we don’t confront these challenges. These are critical observations we’ve assessed with McKinsey and Company, and will continue to shape and direct our work in order to guide a true systems-change approach to poverty reduction. Our paper very much speaks to Urban Institutes’ call to action for enhancing economic opportunities and social equity for low-income people. In answering their call, we want to continue to share what we are learning and open the discussion to our problem-solving network.
We encourage you to provide feedback on our findings and that you continue to share our work within your networks.