Why the poverty cycle is harder to break than we like to think — and what can be done about it

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  • Uncle_Fester Niskayuna, NY
    Aug. 28, 2014 12:26 p.m.

    The single biggest impediment to education in the lower socio-economic class are the parents of the children in question. As Bill Cosby put it, "They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk: Why you ain't, Where you is, What he drive, Where he stay, Where he work, Who you be... And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. In fact you will never get any kind of job making a decent living. *** I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? *** People with their hats on backward, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something?"
    " -Bill Cosby May 17, 2004. It's worse today than ever.

  • tabuno Clearfield, UT
    Aug. 27, 2014 10:53 p.m.

    Even though we might not like to admit it, but racial and socio-economic discrimination appears well and alive in American society today. The resources to equalize the opportunity for low-income students just doesn't exist to really make that big a difference, one reason I resigned from the Salt Lake School Board in the early 90s. The government role that might help to offer most children an equitable lives has been effectively dismantled by Conservatives thus effectively putting into place a two class society in our Country. Only the rich have the necessary resources to provide their children effective advancement through quality education.

  • sally Kearns, UT
    Aug. 27, 2014 7:03 p.m.

    Having grown up in a low income neighborhood, my observation is some of the differences between success and failure is a lack of understanding of legal rights, manners, negotiating skills, and how to be comfortable in a crowd situation of those with more education and money. How many schools teach any of these skills? Yes, knowledge of language, science, literature, etc. that is taught in schools will help. It is not enough for them. The poor do not have models in their own home and neighborhood to teach successful behavior in a work environment.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    Aug. 27, 2014 5:33 p.m.

    Second comment on the book: "Outliers". One study found that the difference between middle class and poor children was that poorer children were more deferential to authority. A middle class 10 year old boy might go to a doctor and ask question. Someone who is poor (and whose family has historically been poor and deferential) will not.

    That makes a lot of difference in terms of opening doors for yourself rather than being a victim.

    For all those who are worried about poverty, are there programs on the internet where one can tutor people through Skype? I have participated in tutoring programs in the poor parts of various cities. It was an eye-opener for me and I had some influence for good.

    With Skype it might be possible to do it without leaving home. I tutored a relative in physics and she did exceptional in her high school with my help. She came from a poor family, but her parents are teaching her to speak up for herself.

    Tutoring is better than sitting in our comfortable middle class existence wringing our hands about the polarization in our society.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    Aug. 27, 2014 5:28 p.m.

    I read a book recently called "Outliers". They did not identify race as a direct reason for poverty. It is an indirect cause like this author stated. The book was neutral on race. It said that hard work makes a difference. But that is a cultural advantage. If you are from the Pearl River delta in China where rice cultivation was big you may have the idiom in your family, "The man who starts work before dawn 360 days a year will make his family rich."

    FYI: Europe agriculture was based on growing wheat which is less labor intensive than rice.

    The author cited the example of a school in a poor part of New York City that ran for 10 hours a day instead of six. The children who came were from poor families but they had fantastic school performance. The author of this study talked about children having opportunities for learning outside of school. Poor children and middle-class children progress at the same rate in reading during the school year. The middle-class children make a jump during the summer because they are reading at home.

  • djofraleigh raleigh, NC
    Aug. 27, 2014 5:14 p.m.

    Don't know about Baltimore, but I learned from 5 decades of working with students with behavior problems that the common profile of males (black or white) was:
    1. Biological father not in the home;
    2. Mother had her first child as a teen (locking her into poverty)
    3. Child was a poor reader.

    I could see learned and perhaps inherited tendencies passed along to the children, including a lack of self-discipline; an disinclination to delay gratification; a pattern of making excuses, shifting any blame, not taking responsibility and avoiding accountability.

    Most male children raised by a teen birth mother whose father is absent did a fine job. I was one. Research those women and see what strengths they possess, what they are doing right to have success and pass that on.

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 27, 2014 4:11 p.m.

    Raise the minimum wage. Most economists agree, doing so would lift millions out of poverty.

  • Uncle_Fester Niskayuna, NY
    Aug. 27, 2014 12:13 p.m.

    Is the shocking college education statistic also by word of mouth through fathers and uncles?

  • OneWifeOnly San Diego, CA
    Aug. 27, 2014 11:33 a.m.

    I saw nothing in this article about mentoring or about mixed income communities. I came from a poor home but had the advantage that my parents believed very strongly in education so that was instilled in me from day one. Next advantage came when a boss in one of my first jobs encouraged me to start college and enabled me to do so by offering an incentive. Classes that had a direct relevance to my job would be paid for by the company. I was able to leverage each class I took into pay raises and promotions which eased the burden of paying for school. Eventually I graduated but safe to say it was a very different path than the 4-year track my younger peers were taking. I live in an older community that was originally built with the intent of a mixed income community -- i.e., starter houses next to more expensive housing expected to be purchased by more affluent. I think when a young person sees what is possible and is able to dream they are instilled with the motivation to work hard to achieve those dreams.

  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    Aug. 27, 2014 9:50 a.m.

    What this study tells me is that children of poor parents (single?) are not taught the basic principles for economic success: delaying gratification, sacrificing now for future benefit (in other words, don't sacrifice what you want most for what you want now); investing time in school as opposed to investing time in diversion; and not the least, the economics of thrift, which many in the poor classes have not been taught, either. It's a skill our ancestors who lived through the depression were not fully successful passing down to the third and fourth generations. Our leaders in Congress certainly don't seem to have learned those lessons.

  • FDRfan Sugar City, ID
    Aug. 27, 2014 9:48 a.m.

    I hope the measurement of breaking the cycle is not financial wealth. The hardest part about being born into poverty is the condescending attitude of others. I find comfort in knowing that the Creator and Savior of all mankind chose to be born in lowly circumstances. Who knows what choices we made before we were born? Of course if you don't believe in life before birth you are pretty much back to square one. I have no doubt. When I went into the military I was too scared to talk to officers. It is a much different story now.

  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    Aug. 27, 2014 9:36 a.m.

    It's not surprising a liberal sociologist jumps right to the race card in conflict with his own data. Didn't his data say that children of poor parents didn't do as well as children of middle-class families? Nothing was said about children of poor black parents vs. children of poor white parents, or maybe that data doesn't support his conclusions.

    Did I read that right? There is discrimination in the unions? But...but... aren't they Democrat supporters? Don't they reflect the Democrat philosophy? Perhaps they need to clean their own house before they race-bait others.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 27, 2014 9:07 a.m.

    This is a complex problem with no easy solutions. But, the income redistribution and poverty plantation approach the liberals have imposed for the last half century clearly has not only failed, but made things worse.

    Let's try these for starters:

    ** Stay in school and graduate. That requires attending school, and actually doing work and homework, and developing a respect for authority, accountability and personal responsibility.

    ** Don't have children until you are married and financially able to support them. Yes, this is contrary to the "if it feels good do it; anything goes; not my responsibility" culture, but it is the best solution for the children, if not appealing to multiple generations of irresponsible parents.

    ** Get a job. Any job. Get several jobs. Work hard and earn your pay by showing up on time, prepared to work, and doing more than your employer. That gets raises and promotions.

    ** Learn and speak and write standard English, not a foreign language, or ghetto slang. Emulate successful people, not losers. (Bill Cosby!)

    ** Go to church. Any church. Religion adds values, moral guidance and compassion for others instead of the valueless, clueless, selfishness of the impoverished lifestyle.

    Strong and bitter medicine, but necessary.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    Aug. 27, 2014 8:17 a.m.

    High marks for the DN addressing issues of poverty and inequality. When I heard that the DN was going national to help balance inaccuracies in media, I was afraid that it would be more of some of their shallow, in-the-bubble look at life. I was wrong. Keep it up.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    Aug. 27, 2014 7:32 a.m.

    "We need to invest in educational development and vocational development......."
    Now there's an idea we've never tried. (sarcasm on)

    (sarcasm off) I grew up in Southern California and there was/is a pretty good junior college system that does not put the demands on students that come if one is attending a major university. It does no good to give scholarships to a University of California campus for instance, if one does not come out of high school prepared for it. At the JC level, a person can actually play catch up in two years of college and then transfer to a state college for the final two years. Neither the JC or State college costs near what one pays for major universities. At the JC level there was actually a class (called math 005 in my day) that started with one plus one equals two, and went on from there. After a semester a student then began algebra 1. Plus I knew many minorities who were getting a lot of financial assistance, which is available to them if they need it. The opportunities are there, what we need is a way to motivate students to access them.