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The Tragedy of
Ferguson, Missouri

by David Stanowski
28 August 2014

People all across the country are shocked and horrified by the daily events they see in Ferguson, Missouri, so they naturally want to know why they happened. Elizabeth Kneebone, of the Brookings Institution, is one of many trying to understand the source of the rage that set off this chain reaction of violence and destruction. In a recent article, she shows that Ferguson is suffering from "the negative effects of concentrated poverty".

Concentrated poverty is defined as the point where a neighborhood and/or a city has 20% or more of its residents living below the poverty level. That is the point where the influence of poverty becomes so pervasive that it begins to feed on itself and affect almost everything. Poverty starts to determine many local government policies. It stifles business and population growth due to middle class flight. When poverty becomes this extreme, it leaves many of the poor devoid of hope and opportunity and, therefore, with nothing left to lose.

Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate in Ferguson DOUBLED to 23.9%! That means that the entire city is now struggling with the effects of concentrated poverty! In 2000, the poverty levels in their five census tracts ranged from 4% to 16%, so poverty was not a big issue. Currently, one of their census tracts has a poverty level of 13.1%, BUT the other four run from 19.8% to 33.3%.

Brookings found the concentration of poverty climbing in almost every corner of the nation, as the financial collapse of 2007-2008 continues to take its toll, because the government's effort to "fix the problem" has done little or nothing to help the poor. On a recent C-Span interview, Ms. Kneebone said that the best way to deal with this problem is on a REGIONAL BASIS. This creates more avenues to de-concentrate poverty. This is exactly why the GOGP lawsuit asked the court to order a regional selection of public housing sites, where they ALL had to be located in neighborhoods with less than 10% poverty.

Galveston is city that is already struggling with HIGHER LEVELS of concentrated poverty than Ferguson! These levels will only INCREASE, if HUD's demands to build additional public housing units are met!!
Population % Below Poverty Poorest Census Tract
Ferguson 21,167 23.9% 33.3% Below Poverty
Galveston 47,689 24.7% 61.0% Below Poverty
Source 2010-2012 ACS Tables
DP03 & DP05
2010 Census

HUD has no sense of shame as it laments, on its web site, about the problems created by concentrated poverty, and then commands this city to build public housing in a census tract with 61% poverty! A neighborhood where the concentration of poverty is ALMOST DOUBLE the poorest neighborhood in Ferguson! 40% poverty is considered a "severely distressed neighborhood"; there is no official name for 60% poverty!

Post-WWII suburbanization trapped millions of people in concentrated poverty as the middle class used their personal resources to leave them behind for "greener pastures". However, when HUD violates their own regulations to warehouse the poor, in already impoverished neighborhoods, the increase in poverty is no longer part of the evolution that most neighborhoods experience. It is the collateral damage from HUD's participation in crony capitalism! 

“We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

George Orwell


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