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More Reads on Poverty and Segregation

Measuring the toll of homicide not just in numbers, but in years of life lost in some of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods; George Romney’s history of desegregation; and more

Cabrini Green Chicago

 

* The Reader’s Steve Bogira is continuing to push the subject of poverty in an election season focused on the middle class (expect more, as the median household net worth dropped about a quarter over the past decade), and has a detailed analysis of health outcomes versus homicide in poor neighborhoods, using an excellent data set released by the city. The numbers outline the real toll of homicide: while it may be comparatively rare as a cause of death, it kills the young, and if you measure it in years-of-life lost, it’s comparable to the deadliest of medical conditions. And it’s part of a vicious circle:

The stress of living amid violence and unrelenting poverty may also make residents more susceptible to disease. Inferior diets, smoking, alcoholism, and drug addiction all are more common in poor neighborhoods and are linked with higher rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

[snip]

A research review in the June issue of Health Services Research pointed to studies indicating that such neighborhoods have trouble attracting high-quality health care providers; offer less access to primary care for children; have fewer specialists available; and have longer wait times for kidney transplants. Pharmacies in segregated neighborhoods are less likely to stock sufficient medicines. End-of-life care is also inferior, with “substantial disparities in nursing home quality.”

* Bogira ties this back into residential segregation, an ongoing interest of his (and mine). On that note, Richard Rothstein and Mark Santow have a long piece in The American Prospect about residential segregation, and in particular its history in Detroit and George Romney’s attempts to combat it. As secretary of Housing and Urban Development, some of Romney’s policies were remarkably aggressive:

Romney developed a program he called “Open Communities” to use HUD funding to entice or coerce suburbs into revoking exclusionary zoning laws. President Nixon was kept in the dark; Romney prohibited official discussion of the plan, instructing his staff to wait until after the November 1970 elections to say anything publicly. Open Communities would deny all grants administered by HUD, including funds for sewer and water projects, open-space acquisition, and urban renewal, to suburbs that did not accept public housing or subsidized low-income housing. Romney’s staff targeted suburbs where African Americans were not welcome, where central city segregation and overcrowding were most severe, and where employment opportunities were inaccessible to blacks because they required long commutes.

Keep in mind that this is a former Republican governor in the Nixon administration. The authors compare Romney’s history unfavorably with his son, but also the current administration: “Although Mitt Romney has proposed an unworkable plan for school integration, the Obama administration has avoided the issue entirely by embracing urban charter schools and intradistrict choice.”

* I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: Paul Tough’s piece “The Poverty Clinic,” is one of the best pieces I’ve read on poverty as a mental-health issue, and his piece on the Obama administration and poverty is also well worth reading.

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