poverty Inspired by the book Detroit by Charlie LeDuff

Cover photograph by Danny Wilcox Frazier

People often claim that living in poverty or being homeless is one's own choice (or consequence of several bad choices), but on a larger level, what causes poverty? Is it that there are more humans than resources available to support us all?

Corporate greed is one cause of poverty that is overlooked in America.
Pjwells89. "The Impact of Poverty in Today's Society – Freedom Writers – Medium." Medium. Freedom Writers, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 09 May 2017.

If you're looking at it from one perspective, Henry Ford might seem like a beneficial person to Detroit's history. After all, he raised the minimum wage from $2.34 to $5.00 and was one of the first business owners to offer his employees a stake in his company. These benefits were so rare and enticing, in fact, that in 1914, ten thousand men lined up outside of the Ford plant hoping to gain employment ("10,000").

But of course, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. One, employing this many people meant that one day this many people would be unemployed. When you are enticing this many people to move to your area, you have to ensure the city can support and provide for this many people. One example of the city's inability to support this influx of people was the municipal transportation system. The city's train system had just opened in 1913, but offering people higher wages meant they were able to afford their own transportation, resulting in less people using the train. Therefore, only a few weeks after it opened, the Detroit Train Station had already started its decline (LeDuff 81).

It appears that, the more advancements we have, the further we proceed into poverty. While Ford was making advancements in their car production, neighboring car company Packard was beginning to struggle because of the competition. Packard closed, meaning all of its employees were now unemployed citizens of Detroit. Ford felt the impact of competition themselves when America started importing more foreign-made cars. The availability of less-expensive cars was appealing to Americans, meaning the demand for domestic cars dropped, contributing to Ford's many factory closings and subsequent rising unemployment rates (LeDuff 81).

In addition, technological advancements (machines doing what humans used to), led to many automotive industry workers losing their jobs as well (Sugrue). Advancements usually seem like a good thing at the time, but their negative effects either aren't evaluated fully, or aren't possible to predict at the time (LeDuff 81).

"Transitions into & out of Poverty in the United States - UC Davis Center for Poverty Research." Transitions into and out of Poverty in the United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.
What studies, graphs, and pie charts often don't reveal, however, are big corporation's impact on poverty. At first, Ford's high employment rates seemed like a great thing to the city of Detroit, but Ford was not able to maintain these levels of employment. The causes of poverty are often placed on the individuals themselves: born into it, divorce, lower earnings, etc. But what is the bigger picture? Why are children born into poverty? Why couldn't their parents escape the cycle? What is causing the divorces? Could it be job stress? If you're living in Detroit, it's very likely. And, does asking why even matter? Does understanding the root causes and the bigger picture mean a solution exists? No. Understanding poverty will not create more jobs, eliminate competition between big corporations, and eliminate greed from society.

Credits:

Created with images by mattwi1s0n - "Say bye bye" • "CAVE CANEM" - "Funny the things you see..." • Mike Boening Photography - "Schroeder Paint and Glass_Detroit" • Mike Boening Photography - "Fisher Body UE_2012-05-20_09-05-17_DSC_7502_©MikeBoening_2012 (1)"

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