Unemployment is now nearly at 10%, Under-employment at 20%. (Gallup, Figure 1, 2.), and amongst minority communities in New York the figures are even higher (Citizens, Fig. 44, pp. 67). Yet at the same time the federal government has cut taxes for the richest 10% (Jimenez, 115). The city announced in the past few years an end to new Section 8 vouchers which give working New Yorkers Access to affordable housing. Then the Advantage Subsidy was discontinued as well, which was essentially the only sort of program to help homeless people get housing (New Destiny, p.1) Furthermore ‘at-will’ employment makes firing employees without just cause easy, and thus exploitation of the desperate even easier.
This is the result of capitalism’s race to the bottom. We saw this clearly in ’95 with AT&T’s downsizing layoffs that led to an increase in stock value of 10%. (Karen Ho, Liquidated, p.1-5) Afterwords many companies like Enron and Bank of America then followed suit. With outsourcing often ending up in raising wages, forcing companies to then move to the next market (Chan, Pt. 4-13.), a savage system has been set up where breaking people’s backs in turn means great profit.
Few people see a connection between the cuts to social services, the increasingly volatile greed of corporate-profit motives, and America’s inner-city ghettoes. In marginalized areas of America’s cities, like ‘The Lower’ or ‘Mott Haven’ in New York, households under the poverty line make up half of the neighborhood (Citizens, pp. 68). The bio-pyscho-social internalization of this is principle to lives of working and poor people in America. The reality of the environment that Nicholas grew up in is one of few jobs, educational opportunities, decent housing, or even nutritional opportunities. The modern low-income urban neighborhood has been designed by the top one percent to be a pool of cheap labor (and high unemployment) where people live desperately, and thus will accept lower and lower wages; This is evident is the large discrepancy between state and citywide unemployment in New York (Citizens, Fig. 43, pp. 66). Furthermore, because the people who live in these areas are already marginalized; the political establishment refuses to keep promises of maintaining housing infrastructure. This is supported by the presence of rats, rodents, and endless maintenance deficiences in New York apartments, primarily in public housing areas like the Lower East Side, Mott Haven, and Brownsville where sometimes half of all apartments in a neighborhood face these issues (Citizens, Fig. 75, 76, 77, pp.88-89). Nicholas’ Struggle should be seen as a call for a social-orientated economy in America; one that treats poverty as a human right abuse rather than the norm.
But the most challenging biological issues pressing Nicholas are the the use of crack by his mother in the often violent community, which undoubtedly effects the family everyday. The family also lacks a steady father figure, which is difficult for multiple boys growing up in a inner-city environment. In New York, low-income neighborhoods are more prone to biological adversities as a result of poor access to nutrition as well as enivornmental adversities like crime and pollution; For example over 10% of New York households have lead contaminated tap water, which lead to learning disabilities in children (Citizens, Fig. 94, pp. 99). low-income communities such as Mott Haven and ‘The Lower,’ face epidemic health issues as a result of proper access to healthcare facilities and health insurance (Citizens, Fig. 310, pp. 228-229). This is complicated by underfunding to medicaid and medicare as a common practice, causing doctors not to accept it’s payout or give less treatment. It is yet to see whether the expansion of medicaid, secured through a long struggle for universal healthcare culminating in Obama’s Affordable Care Act, will have the matching funding needed to support a system that has often been underfunded. Also an issue is that many high-level doctors do not want to take medicaid’s low pay-out. When Deamonte Driver and Esmin Green died it was the result of the failure of healthcare for low-income people in America (Walden, 2008). In order to provide children like Nicholas with necessary medical and counseling services; medicaid needs to not just be expanded but completely restructured to accomodate the needs of a first world industrial country.
The Social issues that Nicholas, his community, and family face are all connected to the austerity measures, marginalization of low-income areas, and neoliberal economics that deprive urban communities of the resources necessarily to building thriving working class and low-income neighborhoods. In 1996, a Republican-led congress passed welfare reform
Report to Congress on Native-American TANF use illustrates TANF’s inability to provide a pathway for the unemployed, and combatting poverty (GAO, 2002, pp.2). Secondly, TANF had a time limit; Nicholas and his mother’s struggle against systematically-induced poverty does not have a time limit, and two years of small monthly checks isn’t going to help raise a family in the inner-city. (Jimenez, 2010, pp.30). Thirdly, TANF has been administered in small block grants to states, which in turn results in the lack of funds to cover even half the people that need the assistance (Ibid, pp. 34-35).
Living in a marginalized urban area, Nicholas and his brothers have grown up accustomed to shootings, narcotic use and trafficking, a underfunded school, decaying urban housing, a lack of employment or employed role-models. A recent recession has accelerated the stratification
The Pyschological Effects of the Ghetto on Nicholas
Growing up in an urban ghetto, many youth face constant traumatic stress stemming from the frustration of family life, the neighborhood, and the inability to break the cyclical chains of the poverty and urban decay, which surrounds youth in these neighborhoods. The effect of the lack of opportunities and the violence are extremely prevalent on Nicholas’ family; Nicholas’ and his brothers witnessing a shoot-out is an all to common traumatic event in New York when the desperation of intense poverty pours out into the streets. The trauma that these incidents induce upon youth force the children to feel unsafe, stressed, and scarred for the rest of their lives. It can lead to use experimentation with controlled substances which by high school in New York ranges from 5-30% of students (Citizens, Fig. 236, 237, pp. 182-183), also the need to protect oneself has resulted in approximately 10% of New York City students carrying a weapon for protection (Citizens, Fig. 232, pp. 180).
In order to feed her children, Nicholas’ mother has worked a series of low-paying labor-intensive jobs. The pyschological effect of these jobs never paying enough is this feeling of not being able to achieve success, which leads to an apathetic mentality of giving in to oppression. Already Nicholas is handwashing clothes and cooking dinner; an introduction into the hard life of his mother, and the cycle of life for households in the southside.
The hardships of Nicholas’ childhood can both build character, and way him down with the hopelessness of being unable to realize the life he envisions. One thing is for sure; the life of the inner-city youth dealing with complex issues of concentrated poverty has the possibility of a far more negative effect on the pyschological development of youth, when compared
Conclusion: A Better Future for Urban Youth
The Biological, Social, and Pyschological adversities that youth growing up in neighborhoods like Southside Chicago, Mott Haven, and other low-income areas face on daily basis is often overlooked and forgotten as the result of an economic system that naturally has these stratified unequal elements of society. In order to improve the safety, education, housing, and job situation; major employment programs, public works, community outreach, and attention on the economic inequality that exists in our inner-cities is crucial. in order to create a better future for the next generation.
Nicholas’ life represents the biopyschosocial problems of the third world existing all over America. But it doesn’t have to be this way; communities that improved in poverty statistics over the past decades, like the Lower East Side, have demanded stronger community assets and programs (Citizens, Fig. 310, pp.228-229). By organizing communities and providing opportunities and resources; inner-city neighborhoods can become great communities without displacing low-income residents.
Carter, Z. (2012). GOP Candidates Back Welfare Model for Food Stamps Housing. Huffington Post. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/10/romney-santorum-gingrich-welfare_n_1197409.html.>
Chan, A. (2003). A “Race to the Bottom” Globalisation and China’s Labour Standard. China Perspectives. <http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/259>.
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Inc. (2010). Keeping Track of New York City’s Children
Clark, A. (2012). . President’s Budget Request Creates Grim Outlook for Low Income Housing. National Low Income Housing Coalition. <http://www.nlihc.org/detail/article.cfm?article_id=8474&id=48>.
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. U.S. Government Printing Office (2008). One year later Medicaid’s response to systemic problems by the death of Deamonte Driver : Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representative.<http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-110hhrg49775/pdf/CHRG-110hhrg49775.pdf>.
Hasking, R. (2006). Work over Welfare: The Inside Story of Welfare Reform. Brookings Institutional Press. <http://site.ebrary.com/lib/nyulibrary/docDetail.action?docID=10149862>.
Jacobe, D. (2012). Unemployment Increases in Mid-February. Gallup Economy. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/152753/Unemployment-Increases-Mid-February.aspx>.
Jimenez, J. (2010). Social Policy and Social Change: Toward The Creation of Social and Economic Justice. Sage Publications & California SU.
New Destiny Housing Corporation (2011). Housing Link Advantage NY – Alert <http://www.newdestinyhousing.org/housinglink_online/AdvantageNY.htm>.
Pollack, E. (2008) Epic Policy Center. Stagnant Wages. Rising Inequality. <http://www.epipolicycenter.org/blm-stagnant_wages_and_rising_inequality.pdf>.
United States General Accounting Office (2002). Report to Congressional Requesters: Welfare Reform Tribal TANF Allows Flexibility to Tailor Programs, But Conditions On Reservation Make it Difficult to Move Recipients into jobs. <http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02768.pdf>.
Walden, R. (2008). Her Name Was Esmin Green. Women’s Health News. <http://womenshealthnews.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/her-name-was-esmin-green/>.
Wright, G. (2011). Who Really Profits Big From Food Stamps? JP Morgan & Walmart. Daily Kos.