Friday, September 25, 2009

Poverty Solutions?

"Poor communities rarely do well if they are part of an overall metropolitan area that is sinking...Making the connection between inside and outside game, between inner cities and metropolitan economies, is critical for all of us...While innovative neighborhood approaches are no silver bullet, turning around the pockets of distress that plague urban America will be key to both a sustainable recovery and an effective anti-poverty agenda.

Manuel Pastor, "Putting Poverty in Its Place," American Prospect, September 17, 2009

These few sentences, prompted by a reflection on the Harlem Children's Zone, contain many of the amgiguities and uresolved questions inherent in the regional equity movement. First, what do we do with metro areas that are not growing? The shrinking-city phenomenon. Will these ever grow again? Should they grow? Isn't growth a part of the problem in the long run?

Second, connecting the inside and outside games is easier said than done. In fact, we have yet to see whether full-blown outside strategies are feasible and produce more equity, less poverty.

Finally, the article ends oddly, given the metro equity argument, with an endorsement of place-based projects like HCZ, which although limited in certain respects have shown remarkable positive effects on student achievement. At some point it would be good to get the whole story -- of poverty, place, opportunity, Harlem and NYC.

Maybe it's not odd, just wise. We can (and should) work both approaches at the same time.

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