Sunday, September 18, 2005

Wanted: More Katrinas

"As all of us saw on television, there's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality."

New Orleans: 29.7% in poverty, 67.3% black, 35% of blacks living in poverty

Pres. Bush's image-reclamation speech Thursday alluded to the now-notorious figures about the poverty rate in New Orleans, and about the racial component of that city's poverty. He said, "we have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."

Okay. But, why?

The obvious answer is that a hurricane happened there. But if that's the only reason Bush has for acknowledging a "duty" to confront poverty -- particularly racially-linked poverty -- with "bold action," then, to paraphrase "Jaws," we're going to need a bigger hurricane.

In fact, according to the 2004 U.S. Census, New Orleans isn't even one of the 10 poorest cities. These are:

Cities with highest poverty rates:
Top Ten Metropolitan Cities with High Poverty Rate

City, State, % People Below Poverty Level
1. Cleveland, OH 31.3%
2. Newark, NJ 30.4%
3. Detroit, MI 30.1%
4. Fresno, CA 28.4%
5. Miami, FL 27.9%
6. El Paso, TX 24.5%
7. Long Beach, CA 24.1%
8. Atlanta, GA 23.5%
Memphis, TN 23.5%
10. Philadelphia, PA 22.5%
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2004

And how black are these cities? I've taken the above chart and added in U.S. Census figures indicating their percentage of black residents, and their national ranking (among cities of 200,000 people or more in the year 2000) based on percentage of black residents:

% People Below Poverty Level / % of Black Residents / Nat. Ranking
1. Cleveland, OH 31.3% / 51.0% / 15
2. Newark, NJ 30.4% / 53.5% / 12
3. Detroit, MI 30.1% / 81.6% / 2
4. Fresno, CA 28.4% / 8.4% / 141
5. Miami, FL 27.9% / 22.3% / 80
6. El Paso, TX 24.5% / 3.1% / 180
7. Long Beach, CA 24.1% / NA / NA
8. Atlanta, GA 23.5% / 61.4% / 7
Memphis, TN 23.5% / 61.4% / 7
10. Philadelphia, PA 22.5% / 43.2% / 29

The Urban Institute compared New Orleans directly with a sampling of cities that have taken in refugees from the flood zone. Here's a look at the racial/economic disparities that turned up:

% whites who are poor / % blacks who are poor
United States 9.1 / 24.9
New Orleans 11.5 / 35.0
Atlanta 8.5 / 33.0
Baton Rouge 12.8 / 33.8
Dallas 12.1 / 24.1
Houston 13.7 / 44.0
Jackson, MS 9.0 / 29.1
Little Rock 6.3 / 24.7
San Antonio 14.7 / 21.7
Shreveport 8.5 / 36.0

For comparison, the Urban Institute also looked at three cities of similar size to New Orleans:

Cleveland 16.6 / 33.8
Las Vegas 9.3 / 23.7
Oklahoma City 11.0 / 29.9

It's been well reported that the national poverty rate has, for the last few years, been going back up -- a reversal of its previous trend. But if massive hurricanes are the only time Pres. Bush will respond to grinding poverty, racially skewed or not, we're going to need a lot more Katrinas.

2 comments:

Deb in Fresno, Calif. said...

woo hoo! We're Number 4! We're Number 4! We're Number 4!

Yes, Fresno's national ranking for poverty is even higher than that for its lousy football team.

And hey, Jonathan, nice little joint ya got here.

Anonymous said...

And more incredibly, Bush used the same locution as he did on 9/12: He saw the disaster on TELEVISION.

As though channel-surfing was the way the PRSEIDENT is informed of matters.
As though ANY SENTIENT AMERICAN needs TV to make him aware of POVERTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OMG, hurricanes just never strike where they ought, do they?

Newer Post Older Post Home