Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Poverty Fighting?

"For Parks, the battle of Inglewood, along with similar fights against new Wal-Mart stores in New York City and Chicago, offer a roadmap to how local efforts can have an impact on fighting poverty."

Maureen Kelleher, "A Place in the Neighborhood," SSA Magazine, Spring 2010

Now, I'm not sure what this sentence means. Does it refer to the approaches we take to fighting poverty -- or to having an impact on the prevalence and depth of poverty?
In terms of the former, yes, fighting for job quality across many dimensions, including the basics of getting paid and stopping other workplace violations, is part of fighting poverty. Yet, stopping things from happening, like lower wages jobs coming into a neighborhood and city has its limitations as an anti-poverty tool.

The latter question about actually impacting poverty is more straightfoward. The answer is a probably "no." Lots of factors shape and sustain poverty -- but I don't think keeping some "bad" jobs out of poor communities is a decisive one when there aren't many viable alternatives. What would neighborhood residents say now in the midst of a jobless recovery about these jobs and their potential effects?

The fight for job quality is important. And getting the best economic development return from public subsidies is a necessity these days. Unfortunately, these imporant battles may not change the grinding increase of poverty in many neighborhoods and cities.

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