Gaps between rich and poor widening
|By Dave Ress, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
They are gaps in income -- and in the share of income available to save for the future, in access to jobs, health care and even groceries, a
They are gaps, too, in hope.
"This is a rough place," said
A badly-healed broken leg, after a bone infection the uninsured Covington left untreated for months three years back means he has a tough time talking his way into work on construction sites, the way he used to. He gets his groceries at the high-priced small neighborhood stores that dot the neighborhood -- the ones that accept food stamps, anyway.
"I'm not good with that technical stuff," he said. "They weren't doing that when I was in school," back at
These days, he's staying at his adopted brother's place, just up the street from the Farmers Market.
He'd like something more secure -- for himself, and for the generations to come.
"My step-granddaughter's got two kids now. Little ones, two years old, two months old ... the future doesn't look too bright for them," he said. "I hope I'm wrong."
National issue, local effect
The growing gap between the rich and poor in
The conservative magazine The Economist warns that pattern is politically dangerous, a sign of economic inefficiency and a brake on economic growth.
If it's hard for the poor and middle class to get ahead in the country as a whole, it may be worse here. On the
According to the
Two years back,
She works at a call center in
Though she had 90 credit hours of computer information technology classes under her belt when she came to the
"Savings?" she said. "I'm pretty much day-to-day. Sometimes, I have to borrow money just to put gas in the car. ... I don't see much of a future here for me or for my girls."
She worries a lot about them. There's no money for extras, no money for a sitter to keep an eye on them when she works in the evening. "I call them on every break," she said, but she still worries about their safety.
Struggling middle class
It's easier for kids when they start further up the income ladder, says
She remembers a Hampton program aimed at girls like Newkirk's -- the idea was to spend some time on campus, talking about careers, as well as get tips on fashion and makeup and the rest of what goes into projecting the kind of professional image that makes businesses want to employ a young person starting out.
But the girls whose moms drove them over and dropped them off at the university came already dressed well. The kids she was hoping to reach simply couldn't get there.
Even so, it's not just the region's poorest who miss out, she said.
"Growing income inequality, it locks out the middle class, too," she said.
"Now the middle class is a struggling middle class ... they're playing catch-up," Livingston said.
And often, it feels a long way from catching up.
"My rent was going up like 5 percent every year and my salary was of course staying the same," she said. "So I was just moving backward financially. If I hadn't gotten another job, I would have reached the point in just a few years where I couldn't afford my apartment."
The gaps between rich and poor here are dwarfed by the gaps in
"A lot of income inequality seems linked to stagnant mobility, but there are a lot of variations from place to place," said
But the statistics don't say which causes which.
The statistics also show that family structure and education matter even more, he said. So does the vibrancy of civic life -- the degree to which people vote, join community groups and feel safe on the streets. When those look strong, kids do better. The degree to which people of different races live apart is also more important, with a strong statistical link between segregation and less success for kids.
How closely family structure, education and civic life track income inequality is an open question, Olssen said.
Looking at the
The poorest neighborhoods
The three richest are in
The numbers paint a stark picture: In the
Poverty rates in the
"It's like a place unto itself," said
"I grew up here, and when I was growing up, there were all kinds businesses here -- banks, restaurants, movie theaters, department stores. There were jobs, and places you could get what you needed. ... There were all kinds of people here -- blue collar, professionals, shipyard workers, teachers."
When he came back to
"I grew up in the projects, in
More than a third of people in the southeast
Median income in the
In the richest
The Hampton census tract where the median income is just about the metropolitan area average -- the neighborhoods between
But those numbers obscure another trend -- the percentage of households in the Hampton neighborhood with incomes below the metro area average is up -- 44 percent earned
Cost of housing
Signs of financial stress in the Hampton neighborhood also include the high numbers who spend more than 35 percent of their income on housing. At 42 percent, that total is even higher than in southeast
That means it's hard to find the money for extras, like books for the kids or fees for an after-school program. In the
It is tougher to save money, whether for college for the kids or a car to get to work.
More than a third of households in the three poorest neighborhoods have no car. In contrast, more than a third in the highest income communities have three cars -- helpful for a teenager to get to school or an after-school program or a job.
The number of car-less households is up slightly in the
"I do carpentry and painting," said
"I work all over
Looking for work? It's about six miles from the heart of the highest-income neighborhood to a
For people in southeast
Even getting to a check-cashing and payday loan company is a 25 block hike from the heart of southeast
A half dozen banks line the roads that bound the highest income neighborhoods, along with hundreds of stores and offices for shopping or work. The middle income Hampton neighborhood is also close to the bustling commercial strip on Mercury.
Except for the seafood packers down by the small boat harbor and the professional and government offices downtown, there are no major employers in the neighborhoods, though Newport News Shipbuilding is nearby. The
"If you go to the
Both the poorest and the highest income
Census data also show people in southeast
Though voting precincts don't match census tracts exactly, roughly speaking, voter turnout in the southeast
The percentage of single moms in southeast
"By choosing where you live, you choose everything,"
Ress can be reached by phone at 757-247-4535.
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