How poverty plays a role in Ferguson

Compiled by Amy McDonald, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Fri, Aug. 22, 2014, 7:45 a.m. MDT

 People are moved by a line of police as authorities disperse a protest in Ferguson, Mo. early Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in the St. Louis suburb.

People are moved by a line of police as authorities disperse a protest in Ferguson, Mo. early Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in the St. Louis suburb.

(Charlie Riedel, Associated Press)

Ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri, may be the result of growing poverty in the area. And Ferguson is not alone. A new analysis from The Brookings Institute shows that unemployment and poverty rates have only increased in Ferguson in the last decade, and the city is just one in the nationwide trend of growing suburban poverty.

According to the Brookings report, the unemployment rate in Ferguson has risen from less than 5 percent in 2000 to more than 13 percent from 2010 to 2012. And the number of families using federal housing assistance climbed from about 300 to more than 800 from 2000 to 2010, reports Brookings.

The growth is not just in Ferguson or St. Louis County. "In the first decade of the 21st century, poverty rates grew in suburban areas around the country, and already poor areas saw poverty become more concentrated," Reuters reported.

Time Magazine's Denver Nicks reports that "poverty in America's suburbs has been on the increase nationwide for decades, as the suburbs themselves have grown and affordable housing options moved further out from urban centers. Opportunities for low-skill jobs — already diminished due to the decline in American manufacturing — in sectors like retail and construction have become more concentrated in suburbs. And it's not only a matter of emigration of low-income people into the suburbs. Long-term residents in some places have become poorer; suburban areas were hit particularly hard by the recession and housing crisis in the 2000s."

"The same decay that sparked unrest in one Missouri town is taking place across the country," Nicks contined.

Dr. Norm White, a criminologist at the St. Louis University School of Social Work, told Time that the situation is not very different from the rest of the country. "Ferguson is just the place that the scab got pulled off. … The reason why this is so intense is that there are a lot of these little communities that have been left almost to rot. Physically the buildings are falling down. There are no social service programs."

Many have exposed the deep-seeded racial tensions behind the Ferguson protests, like discovering that while 69 percent of the population is black, according to a 2010 survey, the mayor, police chief, five of six city council members and six of seven school board members are white, and just three of 53 police officers are black, according to the New York Times.

The protests are in reaction to the shooting and killing of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 by Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson. While the specific circumstances of the shooting are still unclear, it is known that Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting. As the country watches and the media provides extensive coverage, deeper questions about Ferguson's history have emerged and more has become known about the environment that led to riots, leading Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to declare a state of emergency on Aug. 16.

Another man was shot and killed by a police officer in St. Louis on Aug. 19, the New York Times reports, after he approached two police officers with a raised knife, according to St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The Times describes the shooting victim as an "emotionally disturbed 23-year-old black man."


Twitter | @amymcdonald89

1. DN Subscriber
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Aug. 22, 2014

Poverty is an excuse, not a cause. Poverty is an effect, not the cause of Furgeson's problems. Liberalism is the cause of their problems.

The cause of violence in Ferguson is more likely the increase in crime, not poverty. Increased crime likely stems from the destruction of the family unit, a direct result of the liberal welfare policies. Welfare also promotes an entitlement mentality and disdain for private property rights (resulting in shoplifting and theft and petty assaults and robbery). Breakup of the family results in no male role models, and crime results in increased numbers of males (rightly) in prison for their crimes.

Breakup of the family, and the welfare/entitlement mentality results in less interest in education, less interest in religion and its moral values, and therefore less educated citizenry. Out of wedlock births are an even worse cause of low achievement and despair and dependency.

People thus conditioned to failure and dependency are easy prey for instigators seeking to blame everyone else for their problems, and overlooking facts in order to sell their poisonous allegations of racism when the facts are not known.

2. ImagineUte
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 22, 2014

Very sad t (but not surprising) to read how you continue to promote the "lazy minority" concept that has infested American and elitist western culture since the time that Columbus made contact. Blaming "Liberalism" as if it were in fact some form of disease that attacks all that you think is good and decent in the world (the good that religion promotes like war, I guess). There are many reasons that poverty affects people and communities, much of which can be blamed on a system that relies on neoliberal economics ( economic model championed by conservative, liberal, and nut job factions alike) that send low skill jobs to developing nations so that you can buy cheap products rather than support U.S labor forces. It is due to conservative ideologies that do not support living wage for people who work in food service industries, hospitality industries, construction industries and the like because, although companies indeed CAN afford to pay a living wage to their employees, it might mean that they only profit 25 billion dollars a year instead of 18 billion.

3. Outside-View
Federal Way, WA,
Aug. 22, 2014

There is nothing like a good job to provide stability and feelings of self worth on any person or fanily.

Jobs and personal ressponsibility for education will help stablize many familys. I think food stamps and unemployment insurance already provide a high enough level of support.

4. Vanceone
Provo, UT,
Aug. 22, 2014

Liberalism IS a disease that, like cancer, only grows until the host is dead. Look at Detroit. Look at Ferguson. All of the inner city ghettos, crime ridden areas, etc have this in common: Liberal governance, for many, many years.

Liberalism preaches the gospel of "Don't worry: government is here for you. Trust us, and take these free goodies. You are not responsible for your actions--it's someone else's fault!" Nowhere does liberalism preach self reliance and personal responsibility. Liberals do not want you to take responsibility; indeed none of them can. Just look at Obama: the only time he takes responsibly for any thing is if it is something good, like Osama's death. Otherwise, it's all Bush or the Republican's fault. Even Obamacare problems, a Democratic law with no Republican votes, are all Republican's fault--not his or the Democrats.

This philosophy is indeed is a cancer, leading to death of communities, of nations, and all too often, individuals.