Modern society is strongly urbanized, and the urbanization is increasing over time. There are many social phenomena related to urbanization; one of the most urgent problems caused by urbanization is urban poverty and rapid cyclical deterioration of the urban poor. The purpose of this paper is to outline William Julius Wilson’s theory explaining the causes of the urban poverty, to identify a contemporary factor influencing urban poverty and consider the impact of this factor using Wilson’s model.
William Julius Wilson studied the American inner-city areas, and found out that a new class of the urban poor emerged. Wilson focuses on segregated poor neighborhoods (so-called “ghettos”) where the majority of adults are jobless (Wilson, 1996). In these neighborhoods, many people are African Americans. The major problems in these areas, according to Wilson, are related to the disappearance of work and to consequent disappearance of social and cultural framework (Wilson, 1996). Wilson shows that joblessness, and not poverty, is the major cause of such deterioration.
According to Wilson (1996), the common explanation of the deteriorating position of the inner city, racial segregation, is not exact. The major factors explaining the growth of joblessness and poverty, according to Wilson (1996), are reduced demand for unskilled labor, increasing internationalization of economic activity and high imports of goods requiring low-skilled labor, industrial restructuring, decentralization of work, poor public transportation, racism and international competition. Wilson therefore argues that there is no “culture of poverty”, and that the government should undertake appropriate action for providing jobs to the inner-city urban poor: improve public transportation, open more schools and libraries and offer opportunities of public employment to this social group.
One recent factor which might worsen the situation for the inner-city urban poor is the change of climate and its potential impact on the production of food. According to Stone (2013), 2012 was the warmest year recorded in America. Global warming is likely to disrupt the mechanisms of food production: the yield in crop is expected to reduce by 30%, spring crops might be affected by the shortened frosting season (Stone, 2013). The number of bees declines due to climate changes, therefore causing the decline in pollination (Tacoli, Bukhari & Fisher, 2013). The availability of water and the performance of livestock are also expected to decline (Tacoli, Bukhari & Fisher, 2013).
The global warming will directly access the health of the urban poor: higher temperatures are likely to lead to increased level of burns, heart attacks, respiratory diseases, skin cancer, etc (Baker, 2012). The population of inner-city poor neighborhoods lacks funds to pay for necessary medical assistance. The lack of proper health infrastructure in the inner-city regions will also contribute to the deterioration of these communities.
Another deteriorating effect of the global warming on the urban poor is the impact on food production. According to Skoufias (2012), the change of climate will affect the security of food supply, its availability, access and utilization. The most vulnerable group is the urban poor because they cannot produce their own food. If the food production chain is affected, death rates will soar in these communities, along with crime rates. These phenomena are dangerous both for the inner-city urban poor and for the whole society.
Therefore, the increase of poverty according to Wilson’s theory is further supported by the climate change and its impact on the urban poor. The government should take measures for improving the situation, such as renovating the infrastructure in inner-city regions and securing the channels of food supply as well as reasonable prices. However, above all, the government should take action to provide jobs to the population of the inner cities.
Baker, J.L. (2012). Climate Change, Disaster Risk, and the Urban Poor: Cities Building Resilience for a Changing World. Washington DC: World Bank Publications.
Skoufias, E. (2012). The Poverty and Welfare Impacts of Climate Change: Quantifying the Effects, Identifying the Adaptation Strategies. Washington DC: World Bank Publications.
Stone, D. (2013). 6 ways climate change will affect you. National Geographic. Retrieved July 31, 2013 from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/01/pictures/130115-climate-change-superstorm-atmosphere-science/
Tacoli, C., Bukhari, B. & Fisher, S. (2013). Urban Poverty, Food Security AND Climate Change. Human settlements working paper no.37 rural-urban interactions and livelihood strategies. London: International Institute for Environment and Development. Retrieved July 31, 2013 from
Wilson, W.J. (1996). When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor. New York: Vintage Books.