Ran across a really interesting that I want to share. No time to comment on it at length, but the approach it describes to poverty is really important. It’s from Claire Melamed at Aeon. Here’s a quick summary:
“Look at that seesaw again. It’s tempting to picture the people on it as atomised individuals, randomly distributed between the two sides. But in fact they aren’t like that at all. People don’t end up among the very rich, or languish on the side of the very poor, by chance. Rather, their position depends to a remarkable degree on the groups that they belong to. Where do they live? What is their ethnic group or religion? Do they have a mental illness or a physical disability? What family do they come from?”
There are some really important insights in this piece, but perhaps most important is her emphasis on network effects as related to poverty and inequality. In American culture we imagine wealth and poverty, like nearly everything else, as almost exclusively a matter of individual qualities. We are quite deliberately and ideologically blind to the wider effects of region, race, culture, and other network factors that influence success.
This blindness may have something to do with the ways that the New Deal led to the Civil Rights movement, or the Great Society seems to have actually exacerbated poverty in African American communities. Many of our efforts to relieve poverty are built in a way that impacts different networks in different ways. Our blindness to that dynamic creates strange distortions.
The anti-poverty campaigns of the 30’s and 60’s were actually radically successful in mainstream white and urban communities. They have been less successful in minority urban communities and white rural areas like the Appalachians. In fact, the structure of some of these efforts and their localized successes, may have actually contributed to inequality in some strange ways. My conclusions, not the author’s.
More to come. Complete article here.