Local Interventions to Reduce Poverty: Obama’s new initiative

In an earlier volume, Politudes reported on President Obama’s announcement of a new program of local intervention, called “Promise Zones.” We have carried some material describing initiatives in Canada and France which have comparable objectives, if not all of the same components. The following brief contributions address the socio-economic context, the objectives of Promise Zone initiatives, and commentary on a related city-focused intervention started earlier by Obama, as well as evaluation material on two predecessor US programs: the Empowerment Zones (favoured by President Clinton) and Enterprise Zones (favoured by President Bush).

Community Well-being and the Great Recession: Anna Owens and Robert Sampson

This study looked at the differential impact of the recession in US cities, showing that inequality was replicated at the community level.

We examine community-level poverty, unemployment, and vacancy rates before and after the onset of the Great Recession in late 2007 and the economic collapse in the fall of 2008. Our results show that the economic well-being of communities, important contexts for individual economic, social and physical well-being, declined during the economic downturn in uneven ways. Just as we now know that the Great Recession operated to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, we show here that the Great Recession also led to increasing inequality at the neighborhood level.
…The simple conclusion: In most communities, community-level economic well-being has clearly declined alongside families’ and individuals’ economic hardships,
all in a relatively short time. (Politudes: Research done in L.A., New York and Chicago)


Elements from Fact Sheet: President Obama’s Promise Zone Initiative: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, January 8, 2014

… the Promise Zone Initiative is part of the President’s plan to create a better bargain for the middle class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety.

…. it takes a collaborative effort – between private business and federal, state, tribal and local officials; faith-based and non-profit organizations; children and parents – to ensure that hard work leads to a decent living for every American, in every community.

The fact sheet indicates that this program builds on the “successful Strong Cities, Strong Communities” (SC2) program of the administration. Following is a comment by Ben Adler (Next City) on the SC2 program.

“SC2 is not a new program – it’s a new way,” says New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “SC2 has helped to break down stovepipes between federal agencies.”

What Landrieu is diplomatically saying is that the federal government sometimes needed SC2 to shake money loose from its own agencies. That may sound absurd, but integrating the different programs so that each could try to make sure cities have jobs, affordable housing and safe mobility was a new goal when the Obama administration took office and starting pursuing it. The report demonstrates that SC2 is working at its primary goal of helping a handful of cities with some discrete projects.
“A One Year Report Card for Obama’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative” Ben Adler/ Next City


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