A reader adds to our discussion on whether poor children benefit by having rich neighbors. Soulshadow55 writes:
Yeah, that’s all well and good but what usually happens is that the neighborhood improves to the point that poor families can no longer afford to live in it. The increased tax base continues to attract so-called wealthy people to the neighborhood which decreases the number of poorer families with children. The new so-called wealthy people benefit more from all of the new facilities, the playgrounds, improved schools, better services, etc… [SIC]
Harold Neal / Flickr
Gentrification is one of the main reasons behind why more poor District children now live in wealthier neighborhoods. Such neighborhood revitalization, which brings along amenities that children can benefit from, also increases property values. As a result, low- and moderate-income families renting at market rates may get priced out.
Those living in public housing, however, could be somewhat buffered by the negative impact of rapid gentrification, since rents remain steady. Take Columbia Heights, where public housing apartments are on the same block as million dollar homes. But good luck to anyone seeking public housing — the waiting for affordable housing vouchers in the District has swelled to more than 37,000-people long.
Hawkins / Flickr
Columbia Heights is an economicaly diverse neighborhood, home to luxury high-rises and public housing.
Researchers have long noted the ills of growing up in a neighborhood of concentrated poverty — graduation rates are
higher lower, access to healthy food is more limited and violence is more common.
“Neighborhoods of concentrated poverty are really hard on children,” said Gwen Rubenstein, deputy director of DC Action for Children, who ran the recent Kids Count report that found that concentrated poverty has dropped in D.C. She noted that children from upper and middle class families who live in high-poverty neighborhoods have an increased chance of being poor as adults.
But do poor children benefit if they live in neighborhoods of concentrated wealth? It’s a question that hasn’t been explored much in D.C. but one worth asking, given that the city’s childhood poverty remains high — one in three District children lives below the poverty line. At the same time, fewer kids live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty now than a decade ago, but it’s not because their families are faring better. Rather, as more affluent people moved into neighborhoods that once had high poverty rates, more poor children are finding their neighborhoods transformed into wealthier places.
There’s a reluctance “to talk about concentrated privilege,” Rubenstein said. “Areas of concentrated privilege and poverty — we need to be talking about it and what it means for a community.”