Perry Talks Poverty & Race (Part 1)

“We cannot dismiss the historical legacy of slavery, nor its role in causing the problem of black poverty."

On Thursday July 2, 2015 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC
Sources: C-Span, National Press Club (PDF), Washington Examiner 

The Context: While he acknowledges significant barriers for some minorities in entering the mainstream economy, Rick Perry is optimistic that the prosperity of our country depends on our ability to lift minority groups out of poverty. He continues by saying, "And because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their lasting effects."  He asks, "In a country with Hispanic CEOs, Asian billionaires and a black president. Why is it that so many black families feel left behind?” As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain traction and America’s widening income inequality conversation continues in the buildup to 2016, the candidates are establishing their positions. Perry presents the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and block grants which would allow individual states to create their own financial safety nets for impoverished families. 

Part 1 of 2     

This is the first of a two-part entry on the regional patterns of race and poverty across the country.

In no uncertain terms, Perry opens up the Republican conversation on the economic impacts of historical and structural racism. Race and Poverty are two topics that every candidate has discussed—in different ways and to different extents. Thus far into the Campaign Mapping project, we've collected several entries in the Atlas on each, but haven't yet had cause for direct comparison of the two. As we've seen with a few of our other topics, especially when we begin to compare regional patterns, it's important to establish a baseline. In other words, we know that the law of percentages will affect what we see in the maps: where we find higher levels of poverty we are likely to see higher levels of minorities in poverty. We should start with reminding ourselves of a few of the maps to date on the topic. (Click any of the maps below to enlarge.)

Further, before isolating any specific racial or ethnic group, we should consider the national trends. And so, we start with asking

What are the overarching trends in poverty in the US—regionally, racially, and by age group?

Nationally, poverty is overwhelmingly (statistically) concentrated in regions stretching across the southern portions of the country, which coincide with the regions with the highest levels of racial diversity, the highest percentages of minorities, and the highest proportions of African Americans specifically. But this colocation does not necessarily always mean that poverty and minority status are one in the same. Nor does it mean that the extent to which poverty affects different racial groups is the same nationwide. Certainly, these maps cannot imply that minority poverty is only a concern where there are great numbers of minorities. Instead, we should ask

What are the poverty levels for different racial and ethnic groups across the country? And how do those rates compare to the local average?

Because this is where Perry starts the conversation, we will also start by looking at the poverty levels of African Americans. 

Let's talk about what we find. Poverty in Black and African-American communities is prevalent at levels far above the national average in almost every county where there is a sufficient Black population to measure poverty. Beyond this, poverty for Black Americans reaches some of its highest levels where we also see some of the lowest poverty rates overall and in some of the least racially diverse regions. When compared to the poverty rate of the total local population, we find a similar pattern. While poverty rates for African Americans are higher than average in most (measurable) places, they reach above five or ten times greater levels in parts of the country with low levels of diversity and low levels of poverty. 

In Part 2, we will continue this comparison and take a look at the poverty rates of other racial and ethnic identities.