Tag Archives: economic conditions

(67) Hasn’t been the same since…

Econometrics don’t fully account for the quality of life in a country.  For many years there has been a strong desire to have other benchmarks for assessing the big picture that include imponderables, things like cultural participation, personal happiness, stress and security, working hours, crime, family life, environmental quality, levels of harm associated with economic acitivity, volunteer activity and so on.  We suspect suburban poverty, a complex and underreported phenomenon, might be easier to understand (and then fix) with more socially conscious benchmarking tools.  The article linked below describes a good effort in this direction.
New Canadian Index of Wellbeing reveals how Canadians are really faring
Toronto Star

(62) Poverty in Canada [Book review]

Today in Canada is Thanksgiving Day.  Jour de l’Action de grâce has been a national holiday since 1957.  What better spot on the calendar could we pick to review the second edition of Poverty In Canada: Implications for Health & Quality of Life by York University professor Dennis Raphael?

From first encounter this work comes across well.  The second edition clears 500 pages in trade paperback form and continues the fact-jammed academic dissection of poverty in the first edition, with extras.  Of course, there are tables and charts and analysis with references, index and suggestions for web resources and further reading all in the right places.  Plentiful ammunition for journalists, academics, policy makers and public servants to use against ignorance of poverty and hopefully poverty itself.  Students should find this book useful in many fields.

Poverty in Canada is too frequent, too consistent, too often racialized, too hard on too many children, too deep, too little studied, too (literally) sickening, too often not acknowledged at all, too often blamed on the individual affected by it, too closely linked to deliberately chosen neo-conservative economic policies, and too readily reduced or eliminated by quite reasonable efforts and means.  Again and again in this book Canada is seen to fare better than the United States but significantly worse than the Scandinavian countries when it comes to poverty.  Considering the size and economic output of this country our poverty has to be some of the craziest shit in the developed world.  If you are remotely interested in this topic you will find something of disturbing value in Raphael’s work.

Lived experience of poverty has been given more profile in the new edition.  This is sensible.  Elaborating the real thing is humane and complements the statistical approach.

Curiously, there is no specific mention of suburban poverty.  When we purchased Poverty In Canada we expected to find some direct mention of the phenomenon since the Brookings Institution has done a lot to make it a mainstream issue south of the border.  Additionally, we can claim to have directly observed suburban poverty in Canada through social service sector study and volunteering and through living in the suburbs.  In its own modest, amateur way this blog has begun to register and aggregate information about Canadian suburban poverty so we are surprised that a big gun academic like Raphael approaches it indirectly, hasn’t chosen to name it.  Some of this may have to do with the domestic statistical sources he uses and with the fact that the definitions of suburban and urban remains somewhat vague at times for many of us.

Ultimately, all poverty is a disaster and the labels attached to it are less important than the realities of it.  Nonetheless, the experience of poverty changes over time and suburbs are a new frontier of problematic social conditions in Canada.

Seriously, buy and read this book.  Mail a copy to your political representative.  Put it on your students’ reading lists if you are a teacher.  It’s available online and through most book stores.

(53) US 2010 census data

2010 Census data has come under analysis and it shows that the general US economy is not in the best of shape.  Curiously, the percentage rate of African American poverty is a just a tad lower than that for white Americans.  It’s hard to say off-the-cuff what this means but we see it’s enough to get this emerging downturn labelled in the mainstream media as ‘different this time’ and as a suburban recession/depression.
Welcome to the suburban depression CNBC

(49) Downshifting might be fun after all

We came across this item this morning and thought we’d offer it up as an example of resiliency.  It’s about a family forced by economic circumstance to let go of their ideas of well off suburban living.  A lot of how they live would be familiar to generations past in that it involves conserving resources and doing without.  Carbon and other footprints seem to have been reduced in this reversal of the usual success story.  Giving up the American/Canadian/Australian/British suburban dream doesn’t have to mean failure, misery and a lack of joy.  Pretty soon we all might end up…
Living Right on the “Wrong” Side of Town

If this item interests you, ask at the library for a copy of No Impact Man by Colin Beavan.  There’s also a series of articles on the Guardian website about one Mark Boyle, a man living completely without money.

 

(47) No ride? No job!

Leaving core city areas for cheaper housing in the suburbs is one of the few strategies available to lower income people.  Thing is, when they get out to the suburbs public transit is scarce and car ownership sometimes mandatory.  The financial requirements of getting around,  especially reaching a workplace, could easily soak up any gains from the cheaper housing.

These two links are to short items on Wired blogs.  They mention a Brookings Institution report into the matter and a recent American civil rights conference which concluded that reasonable access to transportation is actually a human right.

Ever wait in snow up to your ankles for a bus at 5:30 in the morning?  Ever have the timing belt snap on a fifteen year old Honda Civic in an industrial park after getting off the afternoon shift?  If so, you know what it’s all about.

No public transit? No job…
Transportation as a civil rights issue

(37) Changeable arrangement?

The blog Infrastructurist published an interview in 2009 with Christopher Leinberger.  He has done quite a bit to bring the concept of suburban poverty to the mainstream.  Leinberger attributes much of the problem to supply and demand and to changing lifestyle expectations.  In other words, the magic of the market created the problem and will fix it.  Leinberger thinks it will take about thirty years for suburbia to adapt.  We love the sound of many of the adaptations required: walkable, mixed-use urban hubs and rail-based public transit for example.  He seems to be saying it’s a tall order but achieveable even if there will be losers along the way.  Perhaps this effort at structural adaptation could be put in place under government guidance as a response to what really does seem like the end of growth but a dissonance emerges right away.  A continental refitting of suburbia would require epic amounts of capital to start and maintain which makes Leinberger’s ideas seem almost hallucinatory given the impairments of the global financial system.  At a couple of points Leinberger indicates he is well in touch with reality.  He mentions the phenomenon of suburban houses converted into flophouses for groups of unrelated men.  Certainly, Leinberger’s efforts at the Brookings Institution also indicate much comprehension of suburban poverty and dysfunction.  His take on what to actually do with suburbia is both attractive and disappointing.
How to Save the Suburbs: Solutions from the Man Who Saw the Whole Thing Coming