William Julius Wilson on what has changed in the 25 years since “The Truly Disadvantaged” was published

William Julius Wilson offers some thoughts on what has changed since his book The Truly Disadvantaged was published in 1987:

It doesn’t do any good to offer some people a job if their values don’t lead them to take it. That concerns Wilson, too. At the conference, he and other policy experts explored the importance of “neighborhood effects” that can undermine values and incentives to, for example, pack up and move to where jobs might be more available.

Wilson credited welfare reform and the robust economy of the 1990s with reducing underclass poverty, but noted that poverty has rebounded since 2000. The dip in the 1990s might prove to be only a “blip” in the long-term decline of concentrated poverty communities, he said.

Black prison incarceration also has increased, putting even more of a chill on black incomes, family life and marriageable men.

“Quite frankly I think that (President Barack) Obama’s programs have prevented poverty, including concentrated poverty, from rapidly rising, considering the terrible economy,” Wilson said. He included Obama’s stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which earmarked $80 billion for low-income Americans. It included such emergency benefits as an extension of unemployment benefits, a temporary increase in the earned income tax credit and additional funds for food stamps. It also offered $4 billion in job-training and workforce enhancement programs and $2 billion for neighborhood stabilization efforts, Wilson noted.

Based on what Clarence Page reports here, perhaps not a whole lot has changed? It doesn’t seem that poverty or inner-city neighborhoods have really been a major priority of any major political candidate

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