Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Southeast Washington is in Congress’s backyard, so it should be easy for Congressmen to get to know how their poverty programs are working. From the map above, the work of Henry Potrykus of MARRI, one can see the drastic difference between the Northwest (high income) section of Washington, D.C., and the poorest Southeast: rates virtually ten times different. (The rates are shown as fractions/decimals of 1; multiplying by 100 will yield percentage points.)
The rates of poverty tell a similar story … almost ten times the difference as well:
But teenage-out-of-wedlock births do not tell the same story. The highest rates lie elsewhere in the city. When I asked local juvenile crime and violence expert, Ron Moten, who knows the area well, his response was immediate: “Planned Parenthood is much more active there. Abortions are much more common there.” That is not data, but a hypothesis from a well-informed community activist. Is it true? What are the rates of abortion in these different PUMAs? Those data are not available in the American Community Survey (from which these choropleths are derived).
So what has the Welfare State given the poor in SE Washington? Poverty, virtually no marriage, and high abortion rates. This is not exactly a culture that will raise strong men and women capable of hard work, commitment to each other and to the children they beget together.
Congress has no strategy to bring Southeast Washington alive. Neither does the Government of D.C. Putting such a question to welfare state experts is akin to asking a question for a different planet. But New York City had a similar problem among the Irish in the 1820’s and turned it around. Dagger John, Archbishop John Hughes of New York devised and executed a very successful strategy.
Does South East DC have any champions for such cultural change? A great clergyman? A great mayor?