Five Evils: Multidimensional Race and Poverty in America

By: Richard V. Reeves, Elizabeth Kneebone, and Edward Rodrigue. Published by: The Brookings Institution. Published on April 14, 2016

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In this report, researchers recognize poverty as a complex issue that extends well beyond simply experiencing low-income. Using data collected from the 2014 American Community Survey they pursue a refined definition that incorporates low household income, limited education, concentrated spatial poverty, poor access to health insurance, and unemployment. All of these dimensions are assessed in terms of how they often cluster together, and results are compared between several demographic categories. Overall, results indicate that black Americans and Hispanic Americans are far more likely to experience disadvantages when compared to white Americans.

Trends observed include:

  • 50% of the population suffers from at least one disadvantage whereas 25% experiences two or more
  • More than three million black Americans and five million Hispanic Americans experience at least three disadvantages
  • Black Americans are more likely to be unemployed and live in poor areas while Hispanics are at greater risk of lacking health insurance or a high school diploma
  • Expanded health care through the Affordable Care Act has shown promise by declustering income poverty related to a lack of health insurance

By identifying several factors contributing to persistent poverty, the authors seek to inform policy better equipped to “decluster” and “reduce” disadvantage among low-income groups. Furthermore, this research sheds light on the massive disparities experienced by minority populations. The authors finalize their discussion with an urge to address poverty as a more complex issue than previously considered – one deserving of a holistic effort to eradicate race gaps and social inequity.

Categories: National, Policymakers and Funders, Researchers and Academics

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