Urban poverty’s dramatic concentration in recent years has led to renewed interest making it a subject of political and social debate since 1960’s. The consequences of poverty concentration have a direct relationship with joblessness, segregation, crime increase, welfare dependency, and early sexual initiations. This topic calls for an examination of theories on urban poverty plus the policy discourse and sociological issues that have since risen from urban discourse. Urban Poverty Theories
The culture of poverty theory was influential by suggesting that poor people’s behavior and norms are distinguished as part of the culture of a bigger society characterized by a distinct lifestyle of low aspirations and atypical worldview, a culture that was said to be passed from one generation to the next. However this theory has been criticized widely for trying to divert attention away from the core structural poverty causes by laying blame on the victim and being extremely deterministic.
In the early 20th century the urban ecological theory dominated the USA, where through human ecology perspective cities were analyzed with urban poor neighborhoods being viewed as functional and transitional zones or temporary immigrant ways of passage to the bigger urban metropolitan. Further examination of this theory led to its denouncing because it didn’t recognize the permanent nature of neighborhoods with poor black majority and the concentration of market forces as the only factor while ignoring other measures that could shape group movements and land use policies.
Another theory is laid down that blames welfare policies as the cause of disintegration of poor urban black families because they offered disincentives for marriage and work. Despite the perspective being influential, evidence of the rise of welfare rates in times when welfare income was outweighed even in cases where relative advantage of working at low or minimum wage has led the discounting of this perspective in later years.
Wilson ‘s thesis argues that major shifts in the American economic structure, with the inclusion of job suburbanization and the decrease in demand of unskilled labor led to the downward spiral for the majority of urban blacks. Because it was at this same period that jobs were being relocated away and the shift of economic base from manufacture to service sector, most inner city inhabitants lacked the academic credentials that most jobs required increased joblessness with significant effects on socioeconomic structure in urban residence.
The period 1940-1960, lower and working middle class families in inner city neighborhoods were integrated, however, the late 1970s so an exodus of middle class and working blacks from the inner city leaving behind the disadvantaged underclass. Also the increase in social problems in urban neighborhoods resulted from the changes in age structures, for example during the period 1960-1970 the population of inner city blacks aged 14-20 years increased in number by 78% copmpared with only 23% for whites (Briggs, 1998).