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Friday, January 15, 2021

New neighborhood data portray city of haves and have-nots

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As the tumultuous year 2010 ends, we’re starting to get a sense of how complicated a city and community Indianapolis has become.

In roughly six weeks, the 2010 Census official population counts will add more color and flavor to the complex mosaic that is Indianapolis on the back end of the great recession.

Last week, we got the first look into how Indianapolis’ neighborhoods have fared in the first decade of the 21st century. And for many neighborhoods, the picture wasn’t pretty.

It used to be that neighborhoods (along with counties, cities and townships) got a once a decade snapshot of their social, economic and housing conditions. This came from the information contained on those dreaded “long forms” Americans filled out during each decennial Census.

But six years ago, the Census Bureau created the American Community Survey (ACS), a new way to gather the needed detailed data on America’s neighborhoods – yearly. Last week, America’s neighborhoods got their first look at how conditions have changed since the 2000 Census.

The ACS data, a composite of data gathered between 2005 and 2009, paints a complex picture of American and Indianapolis neighborhoods. Indianapolis, and other major cities, are discovering a stark juxtaposition between their affluent, fully-employed neighborhoods and their poverty-racked, high unemployment neighborhoods.

It used to be an article of faith that Indianapolis’ poor neighborhoods were those in Center Township and a few in Wayne Township, especially Haughville. So, let me tell you about Indy’s newest “poor” neighborhood, census Tract 3601.01.

It’s a neighborhood in western Warren Township bounded by 21st, 30th, Emerson and Arlington; a neighborhood that typifies a new Indianapolis pocket of poverty and joblessness. This area, which includes the Beechwood Gardens public housing project, plus working class homes and apartments, had a poverty rate, according to the 2005-09 ACS of 56.3 percent! You read that right – 56.3 percent of those living in that eastside area live below the federal poverty level.

Unemployment during the period was estimated at 47.6 percent. Oh, did I mention that Blacks aren’t the majority here? While 2010 census population totals for the neighborhood aren’t out, the census ACS estimates that this neighborhood is 6.6 percent Hispanic, 53.4 percent white and just 40.6 percent Black.

Tract 3601.01 exemplifies the huge poverty rates I discovered in the 2005-’09 ACS in scores of Indianapolis neighborhoods. Of Marion County’s 212 census tracts, 45 have poverty rates exceeding 30 percent. In 2000, at the end of the Clinton economic boom, only 20 census tracts had 30 percent or above poverty.

Nineteen tracts, according to the 2005-09 ACS, have poverty rates above 40 percent, with seven above an astounding 50 percent poverty rate.

There’s other white-majority high-poverty census tracts, according to the ACS, like Tract 3572 on the southeast side with a 51.0 poverty rate, or Tract 3547 on the near Eastside with 56.2 percent poverty!

What’s more disturbing than the cold statistics of poverty and high unemployment in Indianapolis neighborhoods, is that several of these areas have been ignored by city planners and groups like the United Way.

Of the 19 census tracts with the highest poverty, nine are excluded from the target tracts of the Ballard administration’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The program is providing $29 million in federal funds to provide economic help to troubled Indy neighborhoods.

But areas like Tract 3601.01 aren’t part of city development efforts. There’s no community development corporation or United Way-funded agency in place.

While other neighborhoods that aren’t in as dire condition get help, many continue to be treated with benign neglect by government and non-profit policy makers.

There have been and will continue to be poor and rich neighborhoods in the world’s great cities. How cities handle high poverty, joblessness, hopelessness and lack of opportunity neighborhoods is what separates run-of-the-mill cities from great cities.

Indianapolis strives to be a great, world-class city. But as the new ACS data shows, we’ve got a long way to go; especially as more of our neighborhoods sink further into an economic abyss!

What I’m hearing

in the streets

New United States Attorney Joe Hogsett made news in an exclusive interview last week on our “Afternoons with Amos” (WTLC-AM1310).

Hogsett revealed that early next year, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, will “visit Indianapolis” to “meet with civil rights leaders.”

While Hogsett couldn’t comment on whether the Justice Department is investigating several high profile cases, he did confirm that sometimes investigations are initiated by Washington, not Indianapolis, Justice Department officials, hinting that the Brandon Johnson investigation was initiated by Washington.

Hogsett was firm that he would prosecute public corruption cases, regardless of whether those involved were people he knew from his political days.

Hogsett also confirmed Attorney General Eric Holder’s commitment to prosecute civil rights abuses.

Behind the great news of increases in overall and African-American graduation rates, I’m somewhat skeptical at what cost were those increases achieved.

Core 40 diplomas are now the required standard for high school graduation in Indiana, though students can get a general diploma with parental sign-off. But the general diploma will not admit a student into any Indiana publicly-funded college or university.

The question is has the strong increase in high school grads been among those receiving Core 40 and higher diplomas, or general diplomas that limit one’s college acceptability?

At a news conference Monday, IPS Superintendent Eugene White admitted that the number of 2010 graduates earning general diplomas was increasing. As of this column’s deadline, I’ve not seen the state’s data on diplomas awarded by race. Until I see it, the good news about graduation rates remains clouded.

To everyone, a Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanza. See ‘ya next week!

You can e-mail comments to Amos Brown at [email protected].

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