Tag Archives: economic conditions

(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

(33) Gone sour-burbia

We thought it might be useful to look at popular culture for evidence of suburban poverty.  Much of what you come across in popular culture is aspirational, delusional even, when it comes to portraying class and social conditions.  Among the things we found is this resentful dirge from fringe Republican Hank Williams Junior.  The song refers to ‘this town’ but we see symbols and elements of suburban life. Williams croons from inside, or next to, a late 1950s Cadillac, there is a motor vehicle in every scene practically.  Single family dwellings and working people populate the video.  Things don’t look too hot – the repo man is after the pickup and there’s no work and apparently Williams paid taxes.  Awful to watch and awful to listen to.  A song and video like this is produced because nobody is living what it represents?  …more to come from popular culture!

(29) On top of it all: job sprawl

Next bus in forty-four minutes, or fifty-five minutes, except on Sundays or before seven a.m. or after rush hour, …or maybe never!  Typical scheduling for hard pressed working people dependant on Suburbland’s diesel bus dominated public transit.  It’s a wonder anyone can hold down a job in Sprawlville.  Long, multiple-transfer bus rides across Edge Cities in order to hold down some crap job suck the life out of you.  We’ve wondered about the justice of this for some time here at suburban-poverty.com.  Once again the Brookings Institution rides up with the evidence.  God bless Brookings!
Job sprawl and the suburbanization of poverty

Newspaper columnist Heather Mallick recently wrote with some passion about a proposed fare hike for Toronto Transit Commission users.  The TTC was once the envy of many a city but now is badly stressed, barely able to reconcile the urban and suburban needs of riders.  God bless you too, Heather!
Mallick: TTC fare hike like poison for the poor

editor’s note
: it once took us two hours and five minutes to get home from a gig cleaning cars in North York to our place in Parkdale.  We had early signs of hypothermia when we got in the door.  We have not harboured resentment ever since, fuckers.

(23) Shopping mauled

Out on the new, poorer frontier there’s at least one fun thing we can all bank on: dead shopping malls.  Perhaps along with zombie car dealerships and deep coma garden centres the malls will form a stock of adaptable, recyclable structures more suited to a post-cheap energy and post-high finance world?  Are you wagering that stash of gold bars and shot gun shells on it?  Didn’t think so.

Ghosts of shopping past photo gallery
Malls of a certain age audio link on page
“The enclosed mall itself, though, is as dead as your average big-city newspaper. Which is to say: not dead yet, exactly, but no one’s betting on its future.”
Dead Malls