Thursday, April 18, 2013

sprawling and struggling: poverty in the suburbs

nbcnews | Like many Americans who move to the suburbs, Tara Simons came to West Hartford because she wanted her daughter to grow up in a nice, safe place with good schools.

Her fall from a more financially secure suburban life to one among the working poor also happened for the same reason it’s happened to so many others. She had a bout of unemployment and couldn’t find a new job that paid very well.

As a single mother, that’s made it hard to hold on to the suburban life that is, in her mind, key to making sure her daughter gets off to the right start.

“I’m basically paying to say I live in West Hartford,” she said. “It is worth it.”

It’s a struggle that many Americans bruised by the weak economy can relate to.

The number of suburban residents living in poverty rose by nearly 64 percent between 2000 and 2011, to about 16.4 million people, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of 95 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. That’s more than double the rate of growth for urban poverty in those areas.

“I think we have an outdated perception of where poverty is and who it is affecting,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the research. “We tend to think of it as a very urban and a very rural phenomenon, but it is increasingly suburban.”

Simons’ situation is complicated by the fact she’s a single mom. Poverty and financial insecurity among single moms is far higher than for households headed by single dads or two parents.

The rate of poverty among single mothers actually improved dramatically through the 1990s, thanks to a strong economy, more favorable tax breaks and the success of so-called welfare-to-work programs. But two recessions and years of high unemployment erased many of those gains.

Moving for a better life
Simons and her daughter Alexis moved from Massachusetts to West Hartford eight years ago because Simons had a job with a local rug retailer.

Alexis, now 14, made friends, became an avid lacrosse player and is now a high school freshman.

Simons expected to work for the rug retailer until retirement, but about a year ago she quit after disputes with one of the two owners. She had never had trouble finding a new job and was unprepared for how hard it would be.

“I know that part of it is my fault and I absolutely take responsibility for that, but I never in a million years thought that I would (be in this position),” she said.

Simons went without work or unemployment benefits for five months before she got her current job about six months ago. The position, as a customer service representative for a local health products company, pays $14 an hour. That leaves her with take-home pay of about $460 to $480 a week, plus about $127 a week in child support. Simons has full custody of her daughter.

She is behind on her electric and gas bills and owes nearly $400 to her daughter’s club lacrosse team, which has her worried that her daughter won’t be able to play this spring.

Like many working poor people, she has fallen into a debt spiral. She took out an $800 payday loan, and she estimates that it will end up costing her $1,600 to pay it back. She also has several hundred dollars in credit card debt and has worked to pay off hundreds of dollars in bank overdraft fees. She’s sold jewelry for cash.

She and Alexis had to leave the house they were renting after she lost her job and a roommate. She got one-time aid from the city’s crisis fund to help with the down payment for her new, cheaper apartment. Still, the $1125 rent eats up more than half of her monthly take-home pay.

She went on Medicaid after being unable to afford health insurance.

Simons said it’s been hard, and sometimes embarrassing, to accept help.

“The thing is, I don’t want it,” she said. “I want to pay my bills.”


umbrarchist said...

So when are people going to figure out that part of the reason for this mess is economists talking BS for the last 50 years?

How can they advocate Adam Smith and enlightened self interest and not see mandatory accounting in the schools as a good idea? But they can't even mention planned obsolescence since Galbraith brought it up in 1959. Consumerism is just a new strategy of class warfare but it looks like growth when measured by GDP.

Just ignore that Demand Side Depreciation. Yeah, economists don't need algebra.

CNu said...

Economists don't cause a damn thing. They're post hoc propagandists who serve to rationalize the economic action of causal patrons, after the fact of the actions taken by their patrons. Don't hate the livestock managers, hate the fact that you're a sheep.

umbrarchist said...

I think Keynes gave economists a kind of intellectual power by vastly raising the reputation of economists and this got combined with the data processing power that computers gave big organizations after World War II.

Who is to blame for ignoring the depreciation of all of the cars, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc., etc.? Keeping other people ignorant is a kind of power.

So we face the unavoidable crash of consumerism in the 21st century.

But in 1930 Keynes was talking about a 15 hour work week by 2030. Economists ignore what they want to ignore. Reality happens regardless.

CNu said...

"keeping people ignorant" is a kind of power easily overcome when two-legged livestock begin to perform their basic being-duty and stop settling for being low-information incompetent consumers. Until then, two-legged livestock and their indolent, unselfconscious, and subhuman levels of activity and effort are the problem.

umbrarchist said...

{{{ "keeping people ignorant" is a kind of power easily overcome when
two-legged livestock begin to perform their basic being-duty and stop
settling for being low-information incompetent consumers. }}}

I do not agree that it is so easily overcome. Centuries ago when books were few and most people couldn't read then much could be accomplished by reading. But it is worse now then it was in the 60s. Back then you had to read a couple of books to get a chapters worth of information. Now you must read ten books to get a paragraphs worth.

I was talking to Logitech yesterday about their ethernet camera system because I am trying to fix one that does not work. They are telling me something that makes NO SENSE to me. I don't see how it could work but the customer must spend a bunch of money on an electrician to do what Logitech says. But if the customer spends the money and it still doesn't work....

That is why I talk about a reading list. It would filter out most of the crap. I think that is why many people do not like the idea. It is so simple, why wasn't it done decades ago.

CNu said...

lol, okay..., so if the shepherd has a better trick/schtick for keeping his flock passive, WHY IN THE WORLD would you expect him to give up this lever. sheeeiiiitttttt......, it is through the application of this lever that he is able to fleece and butcher at will, harvesting the surplus value of his flock without ever having to worry that the flock will grow restive!

To me, the talk of putting together a reading list, a common core curriculum, or anything else that would wake up and instigate the sheep would be counterproductive to the interests of the shepherds.

umbrarchist said...

Of course, that is why the sheep must use the Internet to short circuit the information control system. Of course this would mean a change of culture since so many sheep try to play information hiding games too. But $100 quad-core Android tablets will be falling out of the sky soon. It has taken 8 months for my Nexus 7 to be made obsolete by the Hyundai T7s.

CNu said...

lol, these interwebs are the ultimate, consolidated flock control system - effective beyond the good shepherds' wildest imaginings....,

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