Friday, September 02, 2005

Poverty Lines

Breaking Opinion News!!!

Athenians aren't nearly as poor as we thought! Unless of course, you happen to be black or Hispanic, then, yeah, you're still about as poor as we thought.

An LTE writer in the Banner-Herald gives us a lesson in how to subtly play the race card in Athens Clarke County.

Here's the letter, with some brief rebuttal:

The Athens Banner-Herald recently included a reference to Athens-Clarke County's high 28 percent poverty rate (Story, "Wages suffer in college towns, officials say" Aug. 24).
That figure, though official, is a gross overstatement of our actual rate.

Because, apparently someone pulled out his Fisher-Price "My First Census" Kit and got our "actual rate"?

For Athens-Clarke County, the 2000 census reports poverty of 27.8 percent for whites, 28.5 percent for blacks and 30 percent among Hispanics, for an overall rate of about 28 percent.

But that same census reports that only 7.1 percent of white families and 10.1 percent of white children under 18 are poor, which shows that something is fishy about the overall reported figure of 27.8 percent for all whites.

The problem is that the census for Athens-Clarke County includes, among the poor, resident college students, of which the vast majority are white. While some are indeed poor, the bulk come from the 94.5 percent of Georgia white families that are not poor.

A few things here to note. First of all, the census is not a buffet. You can't choose to count some people for parts of it and not count them for others. So, since college students are part of our population, then they also have to figure into every othe aspect of our demographic data. Also, to think that 20-odd percent of whites below the poverty line are all students is ridiculous. Take a trip downtown, meet some of the artists and musicians who are parts of the community, not fabulously wealthy, and not married. They're in that number too.
The worst thing about this letter, and let's hope that it's not indicative of the feelings of more than a few people out there, is that it completely glosses over the fact that African-Americans have a 28.5% poverty rate, while Hispanics have a 30% rate in Athens.
So, by trying to take the students out of the equation, the author actually proves something even more disturbing than the fact that college students may skew our census numbers. Take his letter at face value (and his point about students skewing our numbers is, for the most part, valid to a degree), and you're left with the inevitable conclusion that there is a serious problem with economic equality in Athens-Clarke County.

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1 comment:

DoubleDawgDareYa said...


Also, the fact that so many white college students remain below the poverty line, at least in terms of census reporting, despite working (as most of them do) crappy service jobs, actually adds support to what the article was saying. Of course, that's fine for the white college kid working the crappy service job for beer money while Mommy and Daddy pay for the BMW, but the real problem is that there are not enough high-wage, or even living wage, jobs available for the nearly 30% of minorities below the poverty line.

Oh, by the way, thanks for the wonderful introduction, and "our" first official DoubleDawgDareYa post will be forthcoming soon.