Place-Based Poverty

Source: Focus, Vol. 32 no. 1, Spring/Summer 2015

The five articles in this issue all touch on place-based poverty topics; whether and how location matters. The first article summarizes a lecture given by Raj Chetty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on improving equality of opportunity in America, where he argued that a child’s chance of upward mobility varies greatly by where they grow up, with considerable variation existing even within some metropolitan areas. Next are two articles on food access in Detroit, an area often identified as being home to numerous “food deserts.” Scott W. Allard, Maria V. Wathen, Sandra K. Danziger, and H. Luke Schaefer use survey data to evaluate the distance that poor and near-poor households in Metropolitan Detroit must travel to access food assistance and food retailers. They conclude that their results offer little support for most conventional food desert hypotheses about food access, finding instead that many vulnerable populations have greater or at least similar access to these resources compared to less vulnerable populations. Dorceta E. Taylor and Kerry Ard suggest a way of reframing the food desert discussion in Detroit, combining environmental justice analysis, and the idea that a city’s food environment is a system that is influenced by a variety of factors. Alexandra K. Murphy and Scott W. Allard look at the rise of suburban poverty, and argue that because of the great diversity of locations that contain the suburban poor, no single policy approach will work for all suburbs. They also note that poverty still exists in urban and rural areas as well; it has not simply moved to the suburbs. Finally, Leah Platt Boustan discusses the Great Black Migration out of the South between 1940 and 1970, and how it affected the economic well-being of both blacks who migrated and blacks who were native to the North. Taken together, these articles make a strong case that location does, indeed, matter greatly.
Focus+ -electronic supplement which includes links to additional readings and videos related to the articles in the issue