Thursday, February 20, 2014

Like I Said - Income Inequality is a Factor

Today's New York Times had an article, Study Finds Greater Income Inequality in Nation's Thriving Cities, that supports my blog post from yesterday.  Income inequality is a real, measurable issue and it's worse in areas where populations have higher incomes (where there is a bigger income gap between rich and poor).  I remember traveling to San Francisco 25 years ago and one of the things that struck me immediately is that all of the service workers seemed to be black, Latino or Asian.  The other memory that stuck with me as a newly inducted Peace Corps volunteer ready to make the world a better place and wandering the city prior to departure was the bad traffic and the white woman who leapt out of her stopped car, ran up to the car in front of her and screamed at the driver through the window, "Learn how to drive you F****** chink!"  I apologize for the derogatory term - it still makes my heart stop today, but it drives home the deep racism that also often comes with wealth, privilege and the separation between classes and cultures.  The article (using information from the Brookings report) states that, "... in most other places, inequality intensified because the poor got poorer...  Low-income households lost ground and haven't gained it back.  And the pressures around cost of living are higher at the low end than they are at the high end."

From the Brookings report:
Inequality may be the result of global economic forces, but it matters in a local sense. A city
where the rich are very rich, and the poor very poor, is likely to face many difficulties. It may
struggle to maintain mixed-income school environments that produce better outcomes for low-income
kids. It may have too narrow a tax base from which to sustainably raise the revenues
necessary for essential city services. And it may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods
accessible to middle-class workers and families, so that those who move up or down the income

ladder ultimately have no choice but to move out.

So, while we're helping our ELs succeed academically, where will they go?  If the most "economically successful" locations are segregated, how will they "move up the ladder" to economic prosperity?  I confess I don't have any answers here - just raising awareness and looking for insights on how to create more pathways to success for ELs who work hard and want to be part of the American dream.

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