A ten year restrospective- Part 1
by Fred Kammer, S.J.
Katrina’s tenth anniversary (August 29th) brings many important stories about levees, wetlands, demography, entrepreneurs, venture capital, corruption convictions, and resiliency. JSRI’s interests and Gospel focus on the “least among us” cause us to examine in this issue what happened—or not—in terms of poverty, housing availability, and criminal justice. Next month we focus on public schools, health care, and new immigrants. The picture, like much of the past ten years, is a blend of good and bad, success and failure.
Poverty and Jobs. In brief, the income gap has widened, and New Orleans ranks second in income inequality among 300 U.S. cities. Poverty is entrenched, and the percent of children living in poverty in New Orleans, 38% in 2005, has risen to 39%. The racial income divide continues growing: white median household income in metro New Orleans, on a par with households nationwide, grew by 22% between 2005 and 2013 to $60,553. That was three times the 7% growth rate of black median households (to $25,102). The disparity in 2013 incomes between white and black households was 54%, compared to 40% nationally. This worsened despite $71 billion dollars received by the State of Louisiana for rebuilding. Closely tied was the fact that employment rates for white men in metro New Orleans was 77%, compared with 57% for black men.
Banner Photo: Shutterstock
By Fred Kammer, SJ
Poverty is one of the three focus areas for the work of JSRI. In their 1986 book-length pastoral letter Economic Justice for All the US Bishops reminded us of the importance of confronting poverty in these words: "Dealing with poverty is not a luxury to which our nation can attend when it finds the time and resources. Rather, it is a moral imperative of the highest priority."
But what does it mean to speak of poverty in the United States? Drawing on the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, the bishops explained it this way, “By poverty, we are referring here to the lack of sufficient material resources required for a decent life.” Then, in the next sentence, they acknowledge the complexity of the question, “We use the government’s definition of poverty, although we recognize its limits.” And a footnote introduces elements of the national debate about what we call “the poverty line.” [Continue on to MORE about measuring poverty and poverty in the Gulf South.]
ARCHIVED ARTICLES ON POVERTY
The Payday Shark in Your Bank Account -- Mikulich
Catholicism and Capitalism -- Kammer
Banner Image: Brenda Ann Keneally/AmericanPoverty.org