The NCBW RMAC Chapter proposes to be a driving force in the fight against poverty in the black
community, specifically targeting black women in poverty, and therefore, the black child in which the household of the black woman has a child or children. Frederick Douglass once stated that:
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one classis made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
The economic divide among the City of Richmond residents has become increasingly more pronounced. In 2008, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Poverty Reduction Task Force (CVPRTF) vis a vis the Virginia Department of Social Services issued a report that purported that poverty was concentrated in certain neighborhoods and rampant in the city of Richmond. The report noted that poverty varies across localities and within localities. The report concluded that many neighborhoods in the city of Richmond have little or no poverty, rates of 1 or 2 percent, while other communities a few miles away had a poverty level that was above 50 % or five times the state average. In the poorest census tract of the city, the poverty rate was 73%. The research from the CVPRTF report suggested that the trends in the data indicated that individuals in these high- poverty level neighborhoods were segregated from the social mainstream, with fewer opportunities available to them which prevented a path forward out of poverty (Commonwealth of Virginia’s Poverty Reduction Task Force, 2008).
In a study conducted by the Commonwealth Institute in September, 2012, the number of people living in poverty in the state of Virginia increased dramatically from 2010 to 2011. Those individuals living in deep poverty, defined as incomes less than approximately $9,265 for a family of three rose 10% from 2010 to 2011 to approximately 417,000 Virginians. Although the poverty level for Virginia was below the national poverty rate and the 8th lowest in the country, from 2007 to 2011, the United States Census Bureau reported that the poverty level in the state of Virginia and Richmond was 10.3% and 26.3% respectively (Commonwealth Institute, 2012). The Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission Report (2013) illustrates that this phenomena remains almost 5 years later. In fact, in light of the recession, the numbers have increased and the implications are significantly worse.
Statistics regarding child poverty in the Commonwealth would suggest that the state does not have much of an issue. In fact, Virginia’s child poverty rate of 15.6% was below the national average of 22.5% in 2012. In its January 2013 Child Well-Being in Virginia Status Report, Voices for Virginia’s Children/KIDS COUNT attribute these lower numbers to (1) the Commonwealth’s relatively strong economy, (2) low unemployment, and (3) high median family incomes in some of the Commonwealth’s regions. However, once the data was trended and disaggregated, the evidence revealed that child poverty rates have worsened over the last 5 years (Voices for Virginia’s Children/KIDS COUNT, 2013). The Commonwealth has actually experienced an increase in child poverty of approximately 27% wherein over 65,000 more children have been added to the roster (Voices for Virginia’s Children/KIDS COUNT, 2013).
Not unlike other states, the uneven distribution of child poverty is common. There are more vulnerable regions of the Commonwealth that were harder hit during the recession and created more severe unemployment numbers, devastated industry, and created more significant economic stagnation. This is most evident in the Southside and Southwest Virginia regions where between 24% to 27% of children live in poverty (Voices, 2013). Ranked second is the Richmond region, to include the counties of Hanover, Henrico, Chesterfield, and the City of Petersburg, where it is recorded that over 16% of the children live in poverty. Again, disaggregating the data reveals that the City of Richmond’s problem with child poverty is considerable more troublesome. In fact, in 2010, Richmond ranked 5th among the ten highest child poverty rates in the Commonwealth, noting 35% of its children lived in poverty. Of the 10 cities and counties, the six were rural and four were urban areas (e.g., City of Petersburg-41%, City of Bristol-33.9%, City of Roanoke-33.9%) (Voices for Virginia’s Children/ KIDS COUNT, 2012). As noted in the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission report (2013), the implications for these high prevalence rates are potentially severe and create vulnerabilities to health, academic, psychological, and social well-being.
In alignment with the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission report (2013), the incidence of poverty must be examined from a perspective of the impoverished, while also examining the parameters (environment, economic infrastructure, social policy) that perpetuate its existence. All of these elements contribute to the occurrence. Thus, when proposing strategies, it is important to recognize the role of each contributing factor or individual. Assuming a multidisciplinary approach, the NCBW RMA Chapter seeks to offer insights that incorporate explanations of poverty from many perspectives (i.e., economically, psychologically, educationally, socially, environmentally) and to establish an agenda that will assist in a path forward out of poverty for black women who live in poverty in the Richmond Metropolitan Area.
As an example, the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission Report (2013) identifies that Educational Attainment is a strong predictor of poverty status in the city. The report provides statistical data which suggests that more than 40% of the city’s population with a poverty status designation has less than a high school education. It goes on to say that the city must work to ensure that youth finish high school, while instituting strategies to improve employment and pay. However, it is equally as important to investigate the policy and factors that are driving the high numbers of high school drop-outs. This investigation should not be solely based on education policy, but should be an examination of mental health policy, social policy, and economic policy as well. Descriptively, it is important to examine the human factor phenomena that may further explain other contributing factors. Adopting this view will minimize the occurrence of unilateral policy decisions, better inform programmatic development, and increase the likelihood for successful outcomes.
- Collins, P. (2013, March 15). Area Near Bottom in Child Poverty, New Reports State, Martinsville Bulletin.
- Commonwealth Institute. (2012, September). Census Data Presents Mixed Bag for Virginia.
Commonwealth of Virginia Poverty Reduction Task Force. (2008). Poverty In Virginia.
Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission Report. (2013, January).
- Voices for Virginia’s Children. (2013, January). Status Report: Child Well-Being in Virginia.
- Voices for Virginia’s Children. (2012, January). Trends in Child Poverty and Family Income in
- Virginia-Recession Halts Progress of Past Decade: More than a Quarter Million Kids Now in Poverty.
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