“Poor people in North America could benefit rom all of the following: (1) the ability to work at jobs with living wages, (2) the capacity to manage their money, (3) the opportunity to accumulate wealth, and (4) a greater supply of quality education, housing, and health care at affordable rates.” – When Helping Hurts.

The materially poor in North America aren’t concentrated in the inner-cities anymore.  They are right in your back yard Mr. 3 bedroom / 2 bath.  In all reality, you know that.  We all do.  We just have a hard time admitting it because if we admit the problem is within our reach it means we might have to play some part in addressing it.

Here are some key takeaways from this chapter:

  • For the first time in US history, more poor people live in the suburbs than in cities.
  • One of the tricky feature of the new suburban poverty is that it is less visible than traditional, inner-city poverty.
  • Will suburban, evangelical churches embrace the ministry opportunities that are landing on their doorsteps, as poor people from every tongue, tribe, and nation move in across the street?
  • Poor people are often at the mercy of systems created by the powerful.
  • Globalization is exposing North American workers to increased competition from low-wage workers across the Majority World.
  • The employment problems of poor people are not solely due to national and international economic systems.
  • Many poor people have behavioral problems that make them less than ideal workers.
  • Historically some behaviors were exacerbated by a welfare system that penalized work by removing benefits as people’s earning increased.
  • There is arguable no greater perpetuation of historical justice in the US than funding for the public education system.
  • Public schools are largely dependent upon state and local tax revenues to meet their budgets.
  • Schools in poorer states and localities necessarily have fewer resources per pupil.
  • The end result is wide variations in expenditures per student with some school spending 300% more per pupil than others.
  • Lack of money is not the sole problem of failing schools.
  • Sinful hearts, distorted worldviews, and bad values, many of which may be transmitted via “cultures of poverty” such as ghetto nihilism, significantly contribute to poor student performance.
  • Local, national, and even international forces, including hundreds of years of racial discrimination, contributed to the formation of these ghettos in the first place.
  • The plague of historic discrimination is perpetuated via the American educational system.
  • Income is the flow of revenue that a household receives from its wages, interest, and dividends.
  • Wealth is the stock of assets that a family has from it’s savings or inheritance, including such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and equity in houses.
  • While public policy has historically encouraged wealth accumulation for middle-to-upper-class people, it has often discouraged wealth accumulation for the poor.
  • The average payday borrower spends $800 to repay a $325 loan.
  • An estimated 15 to 25% of people who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit fail to claim it.

Systemic poverty is closer to your front door than it ever has been before.  There are things you can do to make it better.  You just have to be willing to try.

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