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On poverty and violence

Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017

* AP

People living in poverty are more likely to become victims of violent crime than higher income earners whether they live in cities, suburbs or rural areas, but the rural poor experience crime at higher rates, according to a Wednesday report by a Chicago research group.

The Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit organization, analyzed the overlap between poverty and crime at state and national levels for the first time in the nearly two decades it has studied poverty in Illinois. The group’s 44-page report cites census data, federal statistics and studies featuring victim interviews.

Chicago’s alarming rise in murders has dominated headlines, with over 750 homicides in 2016. However, when murder is taken out of the equation, the rural poor overall experience violent crime at a rate 192 percent higher than those with higher incomes in the same areas, according to the report.

“A lot of people envision violence as an urban problem, but there are a lot of types of violence,” said Heartland’s research director Katie Buitrago. “Some of the isolation and lack of resources that are in rural communities might result in people not being as aware of rural violence.”

The organization’s data show that Alexander County, along Illinois’ southernmost border, had the highest rate of violent offenses per 100,000 residents in 2015. The tally includes sexual assault and robbery, but excludes murder. The Mississippi River county, among the state’s poorest, has been hit hard by years of unemployment, a housing crisis and dwindling social services. Following behind Alexander for the rate of violent offenses are northern Illinois’ Winnebago County and Vermilion County in central Illinois. Cook County, which includes Chicago, ranks eighth.

* A few snippets from the full report

Five neighborhoods—Austin, Englewood, New City, West Englewood, and Greater Grand Crossing—accounted for nearly half of the increase in murders between 2015 and 2016. A staggering 764 people were murdered in Chicago in 2016. A much higher percentage of homicides in Chicago are committed with a gun than in other major cities—and while Chicago’s non-gun-related homicide rate is similar to rates in other major cities, Chicago’s gun homicide rate is significantly higher. […]

Growth in number of poor people living in extreme poverty neighborhoods in Chicago between 2000 and 2008–2012: 384% […]

Several Chicago and national studies have found that common responses to violence exposure include stronger retaliatory beliefs, difficulty controlling aggressive behavior, and the use of physical aggression. Exposure to community violence can normalize the use of aggression as a way to solve problems among youth, who may come to see violence as an appropriate behavior, be hyperaware of threats, and become more likely to ascribe hostile intent to benign behavior. One study found that youth experiencing high trauma were two times more likely to be chronic weapons carriers than those who were not. The biological response to trauma lends insight into why it may lead to aggressive behavior: the stress response becomes overstimulated, while the brain struggles to extinguish fear responses and becomes increasingly sensitive to stress. These neurological processes interfere with memory processing and the ability to exhibit self-control, reasoning, problem-solving, and planning. […]

The prison population in Illinois has grown by 350 percent between 1980 and 2014. […]

Employment, jobs, and income intersect with the cycle of poverty, violence, and trauma at many points. Wage declines explain a significant portion of increases in violent crime rates, while increasing wages reduces the amount of time spent on criminal activity. Experiencing violence can lead to trauma that interferes with employment. Survivors of domestic violence, in particular, face employment challenges, both due to trauma as well as abuse. Domestic violence survivors have a decreased likelihood of escaping poverty, have high unemployment rates, and experience traumatic symptoms that make it hard to maintain employment.106 The inability to get and keep good-paying jobs is a major cause of poverty. In 2015, 48.5 percent of domestic violence survivors in Illinois reported a monthly income of $500 or less and 65.3 percent were either employed part-time or not employed. […]

Children who are victims of violent crime struggle to achieve in school, and the effect worsens as they are exposed to more violence. Experiencing violence has negative effects on children’s academic achievement, including lower reading levels, lower test performance, and IQ scores. […]

The Illinois school districts with the highest poverty rates receive 27% less in funding per student than districts with the lowest poverty rates. […]

One study estimates that reducing the average blood lead level in preschool children by one microgram would result in nearly 2,500 fewer robberies, almost 54,000 fewer aggravated assaults, over 4,100 fewer rapes, and over 700 fewer murders nationwide per year.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

13 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 1:19 pm:

    Same as it ever was. Libraries are filled with literature from all over the world and from all eras chronically the vicious cycle of poverty and crime.


  2. - IllinoisBoi - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 1:24 pm:

    I and the public know
    What all schoolchildren learn,
    Those to whom evil is done
    Do evil in return. –W. H. Auden


  3. - Texas Red - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 1:39 pm:

    Strong correlation/coincidence between poverty and becoming a victim of crime. Not much in this study looked at causation; unless we are to believe that poor people are more violent simply due to their economic status. Might be interesting to look at the breakdown of household type from the census info for the neighborhoods and communities that have the highest incidence of violent crime.


  4. - Amalia - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 1:50 pm:

    Yep. wordslinger X 2. would be interesting to look at prison populations of the past. would we say that the Irish were disproportionately targeted by police? while it is true that race plays a role in the actions with police, it is simply more true that poverty, whatever the color of the skin, is the issue. also bless the people who live in these neighborhoods who are the majority, ware good folks trying to live their lives well amidst difficult conditions.


  5. - Anon - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 1:54 pm:

    === The Illinois school districts with the highest poverty rates receive 27% less in funding per student than districts with the lowest poverty rates. ===

    Does this qualify as “class warfare.” or is it only progressive taxation that meets the definition?


  6. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 3:37 pm:

    I don’t trust the funding numbers. State funding is skewed towards low income districts. Sounds like they added in the local property taxes.


  7. - sal-says - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 3:38 pm:

    WaPo has an interesting article titled: “This innovative program uses brain science to teach Chicago teens how to stop violence”. Good? Bad? Dunno. It’s something to try.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/03/15/this-innovative-program-uses-brain-science-to-show-chicago-teens-how-to-prevent-violence/?utm_term=.cbddeeb09af2

    Also, a fan of CeaseFire. tronc has a 2015 article titled: “Anti-violence programs shut down as Chicago shootings climb”. Raunner could fund personally this out of his weekly allowance, if he cared.
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-ceasefire-funds-frozen-as-chicago-shootings-climb-20151009-story.html


  8. - Freezeup - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 3:55 pm:

    Amalia, one thing that would be different today is how police patrols are geographically assigned. Back then, it was probably a square block, square mile type thing. A predetermined geography. Now they are assigned by analyzing crime stats. New York had an excellent computer system that adjusted manpower by the shift meaning if there was a hotspot in the previous shift they would get additional police the very next shift. In other words, cops are assigned to where the crimes are. In a very rapid manner.

    In the 20’s and 30’s if the police were assigned in that manner, if the Irish neighborhoods were where the crimes were reported, the Irish would have been over represented in prison.

    For whatever it’s worth, if you compare victim statements of the race of violent offenders to race of violent offenders arrested, the two match pretty closely. Yet no one ever makes the statement that victims “target” blacks.


  9. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 4:03 pm:

    There are valid arguments against this approach, but I still believe that one solution is to enable as many families with young children as possible from these neighborhoods to move into middle and upper class neighborhoods (which will be mostly white, it’s the USA), with great schools and high-quality services.

    If your neighborhood requires a massive police presence just to function, you’re already sunk, and your kids face huge obstacles to even reasonably successful lives.


  10. - Anon - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 6:07 pm:

    Does anyone know the correlation between blood lead level and violence? That last paragraph has me scratching my head.


  11. - Dr X - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 6:18 pm:

    Lead and violence correlation: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/lead-exposure-gasoline-crime-increase-children-health

    I post with no comment.


  12. - gladstone park gadfly - Wednesday, Mar 15, 17 @ 11:56 pm:

    These might all be good ways to get the murder rate in Chicago from 400/year down to 200/year, something that the city failed to do for a decade.

    But first, we have to get it back down to 400/year from 700. It’s very clear what worked. In 2003, the city began aggressively policing. The murder rate immediately plummeted. In 2016, they called the police off the job, and the murder rate immediately shot back up.

    You can police aggressively without stopping every kid on every street corner. Hire honest commanders and lieutenants who don’t give quotas for stops.

    New York’s detente is irrelevant. They established the government monopoly on violence first, so now they can afford to ease back.

    The Mother Jones lead article relies on a study that threw out New York, DC and California in order to make the stats work. New York, DC and California accounted for about 30% of the country’s murders at the start of the study.

    I’ve seen a number of intellectually dishonest academic studies, but that one blew me away. It’s roughly as valid as the studies that will be put out by Trump’s EPA denying climate change. Lead is no doubt a part of the problem, but it’s nowhere near as important as is made out there.


  13. - gladstone park gadfly - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:22 am:

    Schools - is it money or governance?:
    http://schools.chicagotribune.com/district/ford-heights-sd-169
    http://schools.chicagotribune.com/district/wilmette-sd-39/

    SD 169, with one of the highest poverty rates in the country, has chosen to focus on that all-critical metric, student/administrator ratio. Boy, do they have a lot of $120K/year administrators.
    How does this happen, you ask? Keep your eye on the news between now and the local elections. Some answers will become apparent.


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