April 2016 archive

Poverty in Baltimore

My civic issue blog focuses on the struggles of living in urban America. I have discussed several topics endemic to large cities including weak education, drug addiction, and high crime rates. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss another pressing issue within cities in the United States, poverty.

The formal definition of poverty, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” With that definition in mind I would like to discuss the issue of poverty within the city of Baltimore.

After the riots sparked by Freddie Gray’s death last year, many condemned the looting, burning, and destruction that took place in the city, labeling the participants as “thugs” and blaming them for disrupting an Orioles game at Camden Yards. While I do not condone violence or the destruction of innocent person’s businesses, I believe it is important to recognize that riots do not just happen at random. Many individuals agreed with this opinion, including President Obama and several other politicians who stated that after the unrest following Freddie Gray’s death, it is necessary to examine the root causes of tension in Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods. Following the Baltimore riots, several articles were published that discussed the root causes of Baltimore’s unrest. Ultimately, each of these articles discusses poverty as a root problem in Baltimore’s legacy.

The statistics regarding poverty in Baltimore are truly disheartening and upsetting to read. In a city that has so many wonderful things to offer, it is saddening to witness the degradation and poverty that plagues areas of Baltimore. According to an article released by ATTN, almost a quarter of Baltimore residents live below the poverty line. The 2009-2013 consensuses found that 23.8 percent of the population live below the poverty line and unfortunately, 29.4 percent of children are living below the poverty rate.

In an attempt to shed some light on to why these numbers are so high, Charles Ellison of The Root, stated that perhaps the poverty rates are so high because the unemployment rates in Baltimore are drastically high as well. For example, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Baltimore’s official unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, which is double the national average. Furthermore, another shocking statistic states that less than 58 percent of working-age black men are employed while over 78 percent of white working-age men are employed. Race and employment remain entwined in Baltimore.

It is clear that there are several factors that account for the shocking poverty rates in Baltimore. Also, it is evident that the poor education, rampant drug addiction, high crime rates, and high poverty rates all relate to each other. For example, my very first civic issue blog post discussed the poor education system within Baltimore. Perhaps a weak education system and high drop-out rates leave young adults unprepared and unskilled and , consequently, unable to acquire higher paying stable jobs. The lack of education and associated lack of earning power directly said contributes to poverty. In addition, if a man or woman in Baltimore is responsible for children or other dependent individuals, he or she may turn to a lifestyle of selling drugs in order to obtain money and support him or herself and his or her family.

It is evident that each of these issues is intertwined and in order to address the high poverty rate, the other issues must be addressed as well. Baltimore must strive to resolve the rampant drug problem, combat crime, and strengthen the education system. If Baltimore can persevere, the people of the city will reap the benefits and the poverty rates will significantly decline.