With the progression of the Great Recession we’ve read a few things online that indicate trouble in one of the major relationships of suburban living arrangements. Of course, we are referring to the automobile. It’s not just about the cost of ownership or having no job. It seems that where you find an automotive/residential matrix the number of miles driven per person has been going down, total car sales are down and that the younger people appear less hell bent on acquiring driver’s licenses than in the past. It is still early to decipher the meaning of these changes but we can safely assume that these changes are dictated ones, not chosen ones and they reflect the problems and growing poverty of suburbia. Here is an item from the UK on the matter that also includes some American statistics.
Destitution Day arrived June 7th. The new D-Day is a tool of Social Planning Toronto designed to help Canada’s largest, richest, busiest city understand where it is at regarding poverty. Put simply, this is the day a single person collecting social assistance runs out of money. So, no, in case you were wondering Destitution Day is not generating a lot of happy talk or positive feeling. The statistics about poverty contained in the report are pretty distressing. It is said that nearly all the wards of the city contain the equivalent of a small town living in poverty, even the one’s with the highest incomes. And yes, the suburbs are well represented.
We’ve been enjoying Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. It takes a hard, statistics-driven look at economic inequality and the character of society. The bigger the gap between the top and bottom twenty per cent of a given population the worse off that society will be in virtually every way. Not just by some tiny margin either and not just in terms of major health issues or raw life expectancy data. The more unequal your society the more people in jail, the more mental illness, the lower the level of happiness and the poorer general funcitoning it will see. The Spirit Level is quite something, it empowers in great detail the arguments against inequality and poverty in a world where the rich have left us all in the dust. Much of this is known to us through experience,of course, anecdotally or in fragementary ways. Not any more. The findings under consideration also break down from the national level to that of provinces and states …and even by neighbourhood!
Canada, for its part, appears in the charts and graphs as a middling, mediocre country. Our inequality not as bad as that of the UK or the US but we have more than western and northern Europe or Japan and so the negative effects of inequality and poverty register more than all but the most heartless readers here will feel comfortable with. The countries with the least inequality do better across the board with statistics indicating better child welfare, better health, better everything from more reading to less bullying in schools. Powerful ammunition this is indeed for fighting back against the people and policy makers who think all we need is to cut this taxe or reduce that regulation.
Dr. Wilkinson has been appearing in the media in support of the book quite a bit. We at suburban-poverty.com could listen to him all day. Here are some links:
Richard Wilkinson In Canada Huffington Post Canada
With poverty, the fun just never stops. Now, the automobile in North American popular culture is viewed as a great cultural leveller and class unifier. Montreal’s Department of Public Health just spent four years looking at motor vehicle accidents and guess what they came up with? The poorer your neighbourhood the more vehicular, pedestrian and cycling accidents take place and the more serious the nature of them.
“Gentlemen, start your engines!”
Dating from 2006 but still worth a mention for our purposes is this working paper from the research division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Yeah, you guessed it, the more cities sprawl, the worse the income inequality gets. We are glad you have been paying attention…
Photo: Richgellis via Wikimedia Commons
One of the principal authors of Brookings Institution material on suburban poverty, Elizabeth Kneebone, wrote the piece Poverty In New England: It’s a Suburban Thing for an online publication belonging to the Boston Federal Reserve Bank last year. Normally we wouldn’t expect to find them particularly in touch with the realities of poverty so perhaps this indicates the seriousness of the matter? We’ve been hearing talk about recovery from the United States but the reality might be no more than election-related palaver and gasoline prices are on the rise again. The latter is now fully associated with recessionary activity and the continued blooming of suburban poverty.
Poverty In New England
More new terminology for social exclusion and social difficulty derived from developments seen in the last US census. Under conventional thinking about markets, employment, investment, and standards of living the near poor would only be there temporarily. Given the sheer scale of disaster in the US and global economies it is hard to see that as anything other than magical thinking. Time to start building resilient communities. Time for responding to reality rather than mythology or politics. It may be that there is a new 21st century technological schema waiting in the wings, a miraculous arrangement of far out science fictions of clean energy and easy money. What comfort that may be to the near poor in the face of any more bad news in terms of gas prices, employment, international conflict remains to be seen, it may make Christmas all the more poignant this year!
Older, Suburban and Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle the Census NYT
Much of this blog sees the matter of suburban poverty through the lens of a middle class experiencing something of a demolition job on its standards and expectations. This article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review focuses on a working class just barely getting by before the Great Recession hit.
Poverty has taken root in suburbs
It’s okay, don’t worry. Everybody go back to sleep, …just another report on child poverty in Canada. Everything’s fine.
Ottawa lacks plan to fight child poverty, coalition says Toronto Star