Week 14: Metropolitan Problems: Racism, Poverty, Crime, Housing and Fiscal Crisis

Grace Blackburn

Week 14; Chapter 9

In the 1960s and 1970s, urban problems involved racial segregation, poverty, violent crime, and drugs. Divorce, domestic violence, family disorganization, deviant subcultures, drug use, and gang activity are also frequent social problems today. Although the spatial nature of large cities and densely populated suburbs makes the uneven development resulting from the inequities of race, class, gender, and age particularly severe, there are four significant factors that cause social problems as per the sociospatial approach. Those are- the concentration of people and resources, the disproportionate effects on populations by the internationalization of the capitalist economy, global cycles of economic investments, and the allocation of resources. Social problems that can be considered uniquely urban derive from the concentrated nature of metropolitan space and the scale of changes in compositional factors.

In the U.S., the most extreme and continuing effects of racism have been felt by African Americans. They have been systematically discriminated against in employment and in the housing market. Some of the most segregated cities during the 1970s in the U.S. were Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo, New York, Cleveland, and Birmingham. Involuntary segregation refers to the various techniques used by housing related institutions to prevent blacks from locating where they prefer. Examples of this are racism and violence designed to prevent blacks from moving into “white” settlement spaces, federal housing policies that concentrated public housing in the inner city while subsidizing “white flight” to the suburbs through construction of the interstate highway system and home mortgage loans, as well as other factors. Hypersegregation is made up of five different factor that help define it. Those are- unevenness, isolation, clustered, concentrated, and centralized. These five dimensions define geographic traits that social scientists think of when they consider segregation and when a group is highly segregated on at least four of the five dimensions at once, that extreme isolating pattern is referred to hypersegregation. Despite their immigrant origins, Spanish language, and high poverty rates, Hispanics are considerably more integrated in American society than are blacks. Asian Indian and Filipino immigrants encounter much less segregation than other Asian American populations because they are frequently familiar with American schools and government. Exclusionary zoning is a kind of racism where government regulations and real estate agents prevent African Americans from moving outside the large city even if they can afford to do so.

In 2012, the federal government issued guidelines that defined poverty for a family of four as $23,492 in yearly income in the U.S. Aside from income; another indicator of poverty is whether or not people possess health insurance. Income inequality in the U.S. is currently at an all time high, surpassing even levels seen during The Great Depression. Poverty often leads to crime and incarceration can cost over $30,000 a year to house an adult inmate and well over $100,000 a year for juvenile inmates. Incarceration costs the taxpayers money that could be used to strengthen cities and improve poverty rates.

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