Friday, October 7, 2011

Poverty in perspective: inequality affects all of us

We've all read about the latest Census data revealing an increase in Americans living below the poverty line (in Florida that number was 16% in 2010.) Though it doesn't make it less dire, perhaps this was expected, considering the ongoing economic crisis. An equally sinister and perhaps more persistent trend is the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Income inequality in the United States is comparable to that of Madagascar and Rwanda. As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett discuss in this excellent talk from 2010, societies with higher income inequality face higher rates of high school drop outs, teenage births, imprisonment and drug use. They face greater social and health problems across the board, not just among less affluent communities.

These thoughts are highly relevant today with the President proposing tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans and thousands rallying in New York and across the country in response to growing inequality. 

Locally there are conversations taking place around poverty. One example: the Florida Association of Community Action hosted a panel on October 6 to formulate an agenda for the Florida Commission on Poverty. Catalyst Miami President/CEO Daniella Levine participated in the panel which tackled such topics as asset building, using the statistics to support policy change, altering funding priorities, educating elected officials and the need for higher paying jobs. What are your solutions for addressing poverty and inequality? Share them in the comments section.

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