Essay: Urban Poverty

Sample Essay

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This essay discusses issues related to urban poverty. Urban poverty does not necessarily stem from the same source nor does it manifest itself in the same way. For instance, in the United States, blacks and whites often have different environments of poverty.

Urban poverty does not necessarily stem from the same source nor does it manifest itself in the same way. For instance, in the United States, blacks and whites often have different environments of poverty. Many of the blacks living in poverty in the United States are members of communities that have high rates of disruption. Conversely poor whites often live in a more stable community with more family support. The racial variations involving poverty and family disruption are strong and the bottom line is that poor whites often have better circumstances that the average poor black.[1]

In the United States, poverty has not become increasingly confined to blacks although they constituted 31 percent of the poor in 1988, the same percentage as in 1967. Black poverty has, however, become more urban, making it more visible to opinion leaders. Poverty has not actually increased quite so much as it has changed.  Relatively speaking, the percentage of people with family incomes below the poverty line has remained stable since about 1970. The main change, in the United States is in terms of who is below that line. Today more children and fewer elderly people are below the poverty line than previously.[2]

The big changes are the causes of poverty. In 1968, 74 percent in America were poor for what would be considered “socially acceptable” reasons – age, disability, student, and low pay. By 1987, the figure had dropped to 54 percent. For the remaining percentage that did not have “socially acceptable” reasons, there was less sympathy from society.[3] In countries other than the United States similar patterns of social polarization also appear. For instance, Canada’s society is similar to that of the United States in terms of the development of the low-paying service sector that contributes to poverty.[4]


[1] RJ Sampson 1987. “Communities and Crime”. In M. R. Gottfredson and T. Hirschi (eds.) Positive Criminology. New Sage Publications, California.

[2] Peterson & Jencks 1991.

[3] Ibid.

[4] G. Esping-Anderson (ed.) 1993. Changing Classes: Stratification and Mobility in Post-industrial Societies. Sage: New York.; C. Hamnett 1994. “Social Polarisation in Global Cities: Theory and Evidence”. Urban Studies, vol. 3, no. 1. pp.: 401-424.

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