African American Youth in Poverty: Washington DC
The word vulnerability by definition is “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. The term vulnerable population takes it a step further and is defined as “a population at risk”. There are many different versions of the definition of vulnerable population but the underlying message is always a population of heightened risk that needs service. Vulnerable populations exist across, the globe, across the nation, across the city and maybe even across the street from any given person. There are countless organizations that serve these populations yet there is always a strong need for service. These vulnerable populations are most closely associated with populations living in poverty, but also include populations such as the elderly and mentally ill. Vulnerable populations can exist in the middle and upper class as well but it is much less likely. The term “middle class” has become quite ambiguous. Merriam Webster defines the term as “a class occupying a position between the upper and lower class” but that marking point varies greatly across the country. Washington DC has one of the widest income gaps in the nation with the top fifth making on average 29 times as much as the lower fifth. This also accounts for Washington DC having the lowest poverty rate in the country with 8.4%, significantly lower than the nation’s average 15%. Take a look into Washington D.C.’s poorest areas, specifically into areas such as wards 7 and 8 and obstacles faced by these neighborhoods in poverty seem endless. Often times Washington DC is referred to as the “Chocolate City” because as it implies, the city is predominantly black with a solid 50% of the city’s population identifying as African American. Only recently, within the last few years, has this demographic slipped below 50 percent in 2011. Nonetheless, the African American population overshadows any other population in Washington because they are in fact still the majority. It dates back to the end of the civil war and the outpour began in the 1950s when living in the city was cheaper and living in the suburbs was more expensive and required a car. According to the U.S Department of Commerce State and County quick facts for 2011, White persons account for 78.1% of people nationwide while they make up about 42.4% of Washington DC. In comparison, black persons make up a mere 13.1% nationally and a whopping 50.7% in the district. Nearly one in five DC residents lives in poverty Taking a look at the youth in Washington DC as well, 72% of the population is black with only 10% of the population white. 70% of students in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) are on free or reduced lunch. Although attendance rate is at a steady 95%, the graduation rate is only at 56%. Almost half of the students who are attending class everyday are not graduating. Something is clearly wrong here. 4 Free/reduced lunch is offered to students whose family are living below the poverty line, which is currently at $23,550 for a family of four. The picture below provides a snapshot of the poverty guidelines according to the size of a family in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. [pic]
Children living in poverty have their childhoods ruined. In 2009 as many as one in five children were living in poverty accounting for 15.5 million children experiencing the steepest single rise in poverty since 1959. (Portrait of Inequality 2011). Teenagers growing up in poverty face much higher health risks on a daily basis. Damaging effects child abuse and early exposure to violence bring on can be detrimental to a child’s future. Poverty frays family bonds, leaving children with no family support and often left to face difficult obstacles on their own.
Washington D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods are facing a serious crisis of hunger. In the capitol of the wealthiest nation, one in eight families...
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