Friday, August 19, 2011

Doing Nothing isn't Doing Nothing: Violence, Inequality, and Race

What is the relationship between violence, inequality, and race? A 2005 review of the literature in one of the top sociological journals found:
  • Higher levels of "structural disadvantage" -- poverty, low income, family disruption, and joblessness/unemployment -- in a city or neighborhood lead to higher levels of violence: "Overall, the studies reviewed above yield one clear conclusion: Structural disadvantage is a major contributor to violence for all racial/ethnic groups studied." In contrast to many popular views, the level of structural disadvantage in cities or neighborhoods contributes much more to violence than racial composition of, or racial tensions in, neighborhoods does.
  • Deindustrialization and its loss of jobs since the 1970s has led to further disadvantage and violence: "the disadvantage-violence relationship is due to the impact of industrial restructuring on white and black disadvantage." The disappearance of jobs, especially well-paying working class jobs, is one of the main determinants of structural disadvantage and, in turn, violence.
  • Of course, not everyone who is disadvantaged commits violence. The disadvantaged are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators of crime. The disadvantaged are also more likely to be the victims of crime than the advantaged are.
This literature review clearly suggests that violence is the price of inequalities in wealth, income, job prospects, and other economic factors. As discussed in a previous post, Ward 6 has substantial income inequality. In Ward 6, structural advantage, such as the proportion making more than $200,000 per year, has increased and some forms of structural disadvantage, such as the proportion living in poverty, have decreased, but primarily through the displacement of the poor, such as through the closure of public housing, and the expansion of housing for the wealthy. Displacement destroys the social capital that the poor need to survive and thrive. How can Ward 6 let people stay in their homes, stop unwanted displacement, and minimize inequality and disadvantage in a new way? How can Ward 6 create employment and end poverty, while letting people stay in their homes?

Doing nothing is not really doing nothing; the current policy is 1) displacement and 2) reduction of social programs that will lead to further structural disadvantage.

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