If you live in an area in your neighborhood where you

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If you live in an area in your neighborhood where you have people that don’t work, don’t have no means of support, you know, don’t have no jobs, who’re gonna break into your house to steal what you have, to sell to get them some money, then you can’t live in a neighborhood and try to concentrate on tryin’ to get ahead, then you get to work and you have to worry if somebody’s breakin’ into your house or not. So, you know, it’s best to try to move in a decent area, to live in a community with people that works. In 1959, less than one-third of the poverty popula- tion in the United States lived in metropolitan central cities. By 1991, the central cities included close to half of the nation’s poor. Many of the most rapid increases in concentrated poverty have occurred in African–American neighborhoods. For example, in the ten community areas that represent the historic core of Chicago’s Black Belt (see Figure 1), eight had rates of poverty in 1990 that exceeded 45 percent, including three with rates higher than 50 percent and three that surpassed 60 percent. Twenty-five years earlier, in 1970, only two of these neighborhoods had poverty rates above 40 percent. In recent years, social scientists have paid particular attention to the increases in urban neighborhood poverty. “Defining an urban neighborhood for ana- lytical purposes is no easy task.” The community areas of Chicago referred to in Figure 1 include a number of adjacent census tracts. The seventy-seven community areas within the city of Chicago represent statistical units derived by urban sociologists at the University of Chicago for the 1930 census in their effort to analyze varying conditions within the city. These delineations were originally drawn up on the basis of settlement and history of the area, local identification and trade patterns, local institutions, and natural and artificial barriers. There have been major shifts in population and land use since then. But these units remain useful in tracing changes over time, and they continue to capture much of the contemporary reality of Chicago neighborhoods. W I L L I A M J U L I U S W I L S O N 120
Other cities, however, do not have such convenient classifications of neighborhoods, which means that comparison across cities cannot be drawn using community areas. The measurable unit considered most appropriate to represent urban neighborhoods is the census tract. In attempts to examine this problem of ghetto poverty across the nation empirically, social scientists have tended to define ghetto neighborhoods as those located in the ghetto poverty census tracts. As indicated earlier, ghetto poverty census tracts are those in which at least 40 percent of the residents are poor. For example, Paul Jargowsky and Mary Jo Bane state: “Visits to various cities confirmed that the 40 percent criterion came very close to identifying areas that looked like ghettos in terms of their housing conditions. Moreover, the areas selected by the 40 percent criterion corresponded closely with the

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