UB professor shares insight on recent poverty report

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- According to the most recent American Community Survey, 30.5 percent of Buffalonians are living in poverty.

The number, which is more than twice the national average, may be surprising to some living in the Queen City, considering the influx of development to the city’s waterfront and downtown area.

Out of almost 600 cities, Buffalo’s poverty rate is near the top 20 highest; other than Laredo, Texas and Detroit, Michigan, it’s one of the worst ranked in terms of a major city.

Associate Professor of Social Work at UB’s School of Social Work and Co-Director of the Institute for Sustainable Global Engagement, Filomena Critelli, says it takes long term policy changes to bring people out of debt, and allow them to save.

Many people in poverty, Critelli explains, are still not making enough money to sustain themselves even if they are employed.

Critelli says job creation doesn’t always translate into ‘good jobs,’ or jobs that pay enough.

Benefit slashing or scalling back ‘social safety nets’ she says, is making it more and more challenging for people in poverty to get out of it.

Critelli says on a smaller scale, Buffalo is a classic case of the post industrial problems that occured nation-wide in the 1970s.

“So many industries moved away and with that, we’ve also seen tremendous suburbanization and kind of, I would even say, racial segregation. And the tax base of the city really went down, there weren’t well paying jobs. And this is something that happened to similar Rust Belt cities but I think it was very, very strong in Buffalo,” the professor explains.

Recovery from this, she says, will likely take several more years.

Keep in mind, Buffalo didn’t nose dive with respect to it’s poverty rate; it’s been around 30 percent since at least 2012.

Critelli says federal policies are deeply intertwined with state and local capabilities when it comes to poverty. From housing to healthcare, social safety nets are needed for economic safety in her opinion; she says new development alone can’t fix the poverty problem.

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